Have you ever been reading along in a book, minding your own business, when all of a sudden you come across something that snaps you out of it and you think, "So that's the way it's going to be, is it?"
For me, that happened at the end of Chapter 26 in Daniel Silva's Moscow Rules, when two international spies, an American and an Israeli are talking about their latest assignment. The American says:
We went to war in Iraq, in part, because we feared that Saddam might be willing to supply the terrorists with sophisticated weaponry or even weapons of mass destruction.
Ah, so this book is aimed at people who get shivers every time they think of someone shouting "Wolverines!!!!!!!!!!"
Or who think torturing political prisoners is justified because Jack Bauer does it.
But just as it wouldn't be fair to say 24 isn't entertaining, it wouldn't be fair to say that Moscow Rules isn't entertaining despite its obvious right-wing, 2003-era politics. Just turn the part of your brain off that winces when you read the following interrogation between a Russian police officer and an undercover Israeli spy, and you'll get through it all right:
I take it you've killed before, Mr. Golani?
Like all Israeli men, I had to serve in the IDF. I fought in Sinai in 'severnty-three and in Lebanon in 'eighty-two.
So you've killed many innocent Arabs?
You are a Zionist oppressor of innocent Palestinians?
An unrepentant one.
Yikes. Bad timing to have read this right now.*
Anyway, evidently this is the eighth installment of the Gabriel Allon, Israeli James Bond series. Allon is pulled away from his secret honeymoon in an Italian Villa to meet with a Russian journalist who has a big scoop of global importance. After a long series of everybody getting killed off before the information can be revealed, we finally find out that there's this Russian arms dealer, Ivan Kharkov, who has just put through a large sale of something to some super-evil somebody, which obviously will not do, so it is up to Allon to infiltrate Kharkov's lair, bring him down, find out what is being delivered to who, and stop it before it can bring down the entire Western world.
Very gripping stuff.
Moscow Rules trots all over the globe, Europe mostly, following Kharkov and trying to uncover what is going on before Kharkov and the Russian government, who isn't the KGB anymore but under Putin now acts just like them, can kill everyone who gets close to uncovering the truth. And as we all know, the Russians are very good at information-gathering and intrigue, and they always seem to be two steps ahead of everybody else in this international chess game.
Moscow Rules is written in the potato-chip style that is common to modern adventure/thriller-type best sellers. The chapters are short - there are seventy-two of them, in fact, and many end in a cliff-hanger that makes you keep turning the pages until you reach the end. You can't read just one chapter, you've got to read great big handfulls until the entire bag is empty. Also like potato chips, the nutritional content isn't very high and after you've eaten the bag you feel kind of greasy and sleepy and hungry an hour later, and now I think I've officially worn out that metaphor and need to stop.
All these kinds of books seem to have the same style these days, which is why I suppose Tana French is currently stomping the competition in the thriller/crime/mystery department.
The difference in style is virtually identical to Eddie Izzard's comparison of British and American movies.
Moscow Rules is a perfect book to check out of the library. You get to read it for free, and it zips by so fast you can return it long before it's due.
*This post sums up pretty concisely what I'm thinking about the current Israel/Palestine situation.
by Daniel Silva
July, 2008 by Putnam
Hardcover, 433 pages
Thursday, January 15, 2009