Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Fault Line by Barry Eisler-A Review

If you are looking for a deep psychological literary masterpiece filled with obscure symbolism and weighty subject matter that you must work hard to interpret, Fault Line is not for you. But, if you would like to immerse yourself for a day or two in a fast-paced, action-packed but intelligent and (unfortunately for society) believable thriller, with characters you can care about and a story that makes you want to keep turning the pages long after you should be asleep, then have I got a great novel for you!

Before going any further, I should admit that I don’t read a lot of thrillers, especially those that feature lawyers. Having worked in the legal field for over 30 years, most of the time with self-absorbed, physically out-of-shape, and uninteresting lawyers who are not the best-looking people on the planet and who do boring legal work for boring clients on boring matters, the thrillers I’ve tried have been unrealistic to the point where I simply could not force myself to suspend belief. When I heard about Fault Line, though, I was in the mood for something different to read, so I decided to give it a try. Am I glad I did!

Alex Treven is a senior associate in a Silicon Valley law firm who wants more than anything to be named a partner, and his influential mentor David Osborne has promised to help him win the partnership prize. When Alex is hired by the inventor of Obsidian, an advanced encryption algorithm that he believes will rock the security software world, he thinks his ship has finally come in. Then his client ends up dead, a bullet in his head, and the police find drugs in his car.

Alex is stunned, but he doesn’t connect the murder with Obsidian until his contact at the patent office also inexplicably dies. Then someone breaks into Alex’s house, and he gets seriously freaked. In fact, he is so freaked that, though he has always blamed his black-sheep of an older brother Ben for some things that happened in their youths, he makes a decision he thought he would never make after his mother’s funeral eight years earlier ~ he calls Ben for help.

Ben and Alex are as different from each as it is possible for two brothers to be. Alex stands for law and order and the comforts of civilized society, while Ben is an emotionally repressed, down-and-dirty assassin for JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command), an elite, covert branch of the U.S. government. He has just successfully completed another job and is laying low for awhile when he gets the SOS from his estranged brother. Ben falls back in the old, schoolyard habit of protecting Alex from bullies and hurries back to the Silicon Valley to come to his aid. Once together again, they begin sniping at each other for weaknesses they perceive in the other. Add another bone of contention ~ Sarah, the beautiful first-year Alex has been eying for months but who is drawn inexplicably to Ben ~ and things get pretty heated. As for Ben, he might not trust Sarah as far as he can throw her (I admit it, I love cliches), mostly because she’s Iranian-American and had been working closely with Alex on Obsidian, but, in rare agreement with his little brother, he sure does find her hot.

Okay, enough plot. You want to know more, you can read the book. I assure you, Fault Line is worth it!

One thing that impressed me about Fault Line is the realistic depiction of the Silicon Valley law firm and its politics. Very true to the way a law firm operates. The parts about Ben’s military stint and his work in JSOC ~ and the machinations of the government around that nasty little secret organization ~ also seem (too) true to life. And no wonder! It turns out that the author, Barry Eisler, spent 3 years in a covert position with the CIA’s Directorate of Operations before becoming a lawyer in the Silicon Valley. He also earned a black belt at the Kodokan International Judo Center in Japan, so the fight scenes don’t strain credulity either.

I also liked the relationships between the brothers, the way Fault Lines shows the difficulties faced by Iranian-Americans since 9/11, and the sharp dichotomy between the American ideal and the lack of ethics in the way the government actually functions. I also got a real kick out of the way the internet and blogs played a big part. I recommend Fault Line highly and am going to be on the lookout now for his Rain series.

Barry Eisler's blog is at He also Tweets at


Nicole said...

I finished this book last week and I really enjoyed reading it. You are right about it only taking a day or two to read. It definitely held my attention.

Caspette said...

This sounds great. Wonderful review.

Mary K. from L.A. said...

Thanks, Nicole and Caspette! It was an enjoyable read. I'm planning to start his Rain series, which I hear is also good.