Quinn’s legal thriller explores lingering World War II secrets.
After being suspended from practicing law, Jake Cotnoir’s first case back seems unwinnable. His client, an elderly Frenchman accused of murdering the French deputy ambassador to the United Nations, refuses to divulge his name and shrugs his shoulders every time Jake asks a question. Once a rising star working for Boston’s most prominent law firm, Jake is now broke, sleeping at a friend’s house and doing his best not to fall off the wagon. Quinn’s latest novel combines a legal thriller with a World War II spy plot. As Jake travels to France to unravel his client’s information, he learns he might be in over his head: Powerful people on both sides of the Atlantic are willing to go to extreme, even murderous lengths to make sure the silent Frenchman doesn’t divulge his secrets. The compelling mystery is often genuinely suspenseful. Quinn crafts a clever plot that encompasses Nazis, the French Resistance, the Jewish Defense League, unethical reporters and shady government agents—even FDR and Hitler make direct, personal impacts on the characters. However, the novel’s structure holds it back. Narrative momentum is drained by awkwardly inserted infodumps and pages of back story, and characters tend to incessantly pontificate in long speeches. At times, Quinn seems so intent on making sure the reader understands his intentions and appreciates the Nazi-era French suffering that he veers from satisfying storytelling into historical preaching. Readers will ache to get back to the actual story. Jake, an appealingly complicated character who suffers from bipolar disorder, often plunges into deep, dark depression; however, this diagnosis isn’t made until nearly the end of the novel. Until this key development, readers will be somewhat mystified by his actions and unlikely to understand why Jake, suddenly gripped by exhaustion, becomes “too frightened to take the five steps to the single edged blades in the bathroom cabinet that would give [him] relief.” Ultimately, Quinn’s novel feels too long and full of distracting subplots, as when Jake tries to “scare straight” a friend’s teenage son, with unwelcome results.
In need of more focus on the mystery and tighter reins on the plot and its structure.
A highly organized, informative discussion of the immigration system in the United States.
In this politically charged environment, Afrasiabi manages to broach the volatile issue of immigration in a well-rounded, surprisingly effective framework that combines case studies, historical research, statistical analysis and personal anecdotes to detail the current issues and propose solutions. Invocations of Kafka, “The Twilight Zone” and “Alice in Wonderland” prove warranted as illustrations of the often surreal circumstances that confront immigrants facing deportation. Immigrants usually lack access to quality legal representation, while their situation can be made doubly difficult due to language barriers and significant cultural differences. Afrasiabi incorporates his work with colleagues and students at the Chapman University School of Law to deftly weave together the facts of several compelling cases and their underlying legal issues, with a genuine sense of suspense as readers wonder if justice will be truly be served. Occasionally, though, the narrative becomes overwrought—two federal laws passed in 1996 are “dark storm clouds depositing their sleet”—although, considering the life-changing effects of court decisions, it’s difficult to overstate the ramifications: extralegal rendition of individuals with pending cases and the de facto deportation of native-born children whose parents are deported. Afrasiabi also addresses the legacy of various anti-alien laws in California, as well as marriage equality for same-sex couples when one partner is a noncitizen. As the subtitle asserts, Afrasiabi employs his additional experience in the field of property law to contrast the stark differences between immigration judges and constitutional judges, like their qualifications, vetting processes and even the oaths they take. His arguments culminate in seven concrete reforms proposed in the conclusion. In order to make the immigration system more just and effective, Afrasiabi claims the solutions are closer than we may think; we can implement procedures and safeguards already in place within the constitutional courts.
A persuasive, valuable addition to the ongoing immigration reform debate.
Walkley pits CIA agents against a maniacal Saudi prince intent on starting World War III in this debut thriller.
Delta Force operative Lee McCloud, aka Mac, finds himself in Mexico, trying to rescue two teenage girls kidnapped by a drug cartel. But things go from bad to worse when the villains don’t play by the rules. Framed for two murders he didn’t commit, Mac has two options: go to prison or go to work for a CIA black-op group run by the devious Wisebaum, who hacks into terrorists’ bank accounts and confiscates millions of dollars. However, there’s more going on than meets the eye; Saudi Prince Khalid is in possession of nuclear canisters, with which he hopes to alter world history. Khalid also dabbles in trafficking young women, and harvesting and selling human organs. When Wisebaum’s black-op team targets Khalid’s father, the action becomes even more intense. With so many interweaving subplots—kidnapped girls, Israeli undercover agents, nuclear weapons and a secret underwater hideout—it could be easy to lose track of what’s going on. But the author’s deft handling of the material ensures that doesn’t occur; subplots are introduced at the appropriate junctures and, by story’s end, all are accounted for and neatly concluded. Mac is portrayed as a rough and ready action-hero, yet his vulnerabilities will evoke empathy in readers. He finds a love interest in Tally, a hacker whose personality is just quirky enough to complement his own. All Walkley’s primary characters are fleshed out and realistic, with the exception of Wisebaum—a malicious, double-dealing, back-stabber of the worst ilk; the reader is left wondering about Wisebaum’s motivations behind such blatant treachery.
Despite this, Walkley’s beefy prose and rousing action sequences deliver a thriller to satisfy any adrenaline addict.