Saturday, September 19, 2009

Jericho's Fall - Stephen L. Carter

I had the same reaction to all three of Stephen L. Carter's previous three novels: great suspense, a little long, a tad bit pretentious on the 50-cent words, intriguing discussion of race relations. Jericho's Fall is none of these things. I was suprised that Carter came out with a novel so soon after Palace Council, but after reading Jericho's Fall, I think I understand why. Unlike his previous three novels, Jericho's Fall simply isn't that intelligent. The writing is unsophisticated and the suspense utterly lacking. The basic premise is that former head of the CIA, Jericho Ainsley is on his death bed. Isolated up in the Colorado Rockies (where we are told over and over again that there is NO CELL PHONE RECEPTION), he summons Beck DeForde, a woman with whom he once had a career and marriage-ending affair. They have not seen each other in years, and DeForde is irritated having to leave her young daughter to respond to the whims of this selfish and egotistical man (but of course she does it anyway). Then for the next 150 pages or so - nothing happens. Jericho speaks to her in code, or possible derangement. His daughters, still angry at the homewrecker after all these years, are rude to her. And of course, there's just something weird going on with DeForde's cell phone - it rings, and strange messages are played back, it turns on and off - but every time it does so we are reminded that cell phones don't even work in the house! By the time some mystery was injected into the story, beyond Jericho's paranoid delusions, I just wanted it to end. DeForde strikes up a flirtation with a married cop in town - despite the fact that they appear to have no chemistry, and it's clear it's going to end badly. There's also a new librarian in town - the only black woman around we learn (for no reason in particular), who is clearly out of her element. DeForde takes it upon herself to figure out what exactly Jericho has got himself involved in - but she has no investigation skills, no common sense, and no intuition. The foreshadowing is so obvious, if only DeForde could have read the book along with us, she would have known to get out and save herself much sooner. With intelligence operations, foreign governments, and financial scandal involved, perhaps people more jazzed by espionage stories would have found something exciting in this one. But, after Carter's past novels, I've come to expect so much more from him, and I was truly disappointed.

No comments: