THE SHELL GAME by Steve Alten


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Real-life political figures pop up alarmingly in a nerve-wracking thriller about America’s addiction to Middle-Eastern sweet crude and the network of enablers who keep our dependent nation away from detox.

Playing skillfully on the national jitters about terrorism and political administrations that seem entirely too cozy with Big Oil, Alten (Resurrection, 2004, etc.) dreams up an intensely tangled plot that pits Ashley “Ace” Futrell, a valiant, almost-great, collegiate quarterback turned scrupulously and inconveniently honest petroleum geologist, against pretty near the entire post-Bush Republican administration, its petro-plutocratic backers and the neoconservative brain trust that does the administration’s thinking. The Bush administration does not get off without a hammering in this cheerfully partisan adventure, since the seeds of all the troubles that beset Futrell and the American nation were sown during the administrations of pere et fils, when shadowy intelligence figures dreamed up and put in motion a plan to frame Iran with fake nuclear crimes. Futrell’s brainy neoconservative wife Kelli was part of that scheme, but in the throes of incurable cancer she repents, writes a tell-all exposé and charges Ace with her dying breath (she falls to an assassin’s bullet before the cancer can do her in) to get in there and clean up the potentially cataclysmic situation which has metastasized into about 15 counterplots. These involve a nuclear physicist with Japanese roots and a grudge left over from World War II; an Islamic sleeper cell that wakes up in Aurora, Ill.; double and triple-dealing heads of the CIA and FBI; and the rotten-to-the-core Saudi royal family. Defusing the situation will require Futrell to endure a spell in a Saudi secret political prison where he is tortured. While he’s locked up in the desert, a couple of suitcase bombs start moving toward their targets.

Great fun for the paranoid amongst us.

Pub Date: Jan. 22nd, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-59955-094-7
Page count: 508pp
Publisher: Sweetwater
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2007


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