Barry Eisler’s “Fault Line”

Barry Eisler’s novel “Fault Line” was released in paperback earlier this week. Here’s a very brief review I wrote when the book was first published last year:

“Fault Line” is being touted as Barry Eisler’s “first stand-alone thriller.” But its three main characters – estranged brothers Ben and Alex and the woman they are both attracted to, Sarah – must uneasily stand together to survive the attacks of paid assassins who are after the book’s MacGuffin, a truly killer app out of Silicon Valley.

Eisler, a former CIA agent, made a name for himself with a series of six excellent novels about a globetrotting Japanese-American hitman named John Rain. Sony Pictures has made the first of these, “Rain Fall,” into a mostly Japanese-language movie featuring Gary Oldman.

The Rain books were character-driven, with the focus as much on Rain’s tortured psyche as on his deadly handiwork. “Fault Line” is also character-driven, but Eisler shows each of the three main characters through the eyes of the other two, giving readers a 360-degree view of how a mix of healthy paranoia and needless suspicion complicates their already tense relationships.

Alex and Sarah are lawyers for the creator of some revolutionary new software. When the creator is found murdered, Alex turns to Ben, a black-ops commando, for help. Soon the chase is on, with the trio dodging murderous attacks and fighting among themselves in almost equally deadly fashion.

Amid the tradecraft details and family drama, Eisler lets his characters make the occasional political aside. “The left was naïve, thinking you could follow the niceties and still fight effectively against the kind of fanatics America was up against,” Ben muses. “And the right was hypocritical, thinking you could take off the gloves and still occupy the moral high ground.”

For readers on either side of that cynical line, “Fault Line” delivers its twists and thrills in a well-crafted literary package.

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