Review

Rules of Betrayal

by Christopher Reich

Christopher Reich had written a number of solid stand-alone
works that earned him the title “the John Grisham of Wall
Street” by the New York Times before he turned his
hand to series writing and international espionage. His Ransom
characters, introduced in RULES OF DECEPTION, have been fascinating
from their inception. Jonathan Ransom is a selfless physician who
has worked with an organization known as Doctors Without Borders,
foregoing the monetary compensation he could have received in a
private medical practice for a spiritual one. His wife, Emma, had
assisted him in this endeavor, yet she was not who she seemed to
be. Rather, she was (and is) a spy and assassin named Lara
Antonova, who used Jonathan’s medical practice as a cover for
her own activities. Her betrayal of Jonathan and the effect it has
had upon both of them, and their relationship, has been played out
over the course of two novels, revealing new and unexpected sides
of their personalities.

Jonathan, good works notwithstanding, has a dark side to him,
one that he attempts to simultaneously submerge and atone for,
sometimes succeeding, oftentimes failing. Emma/Lara, for all of her
deception, truly loves Jonathan. And though she has used her
considerable sensuality on him (and others) with a sinister twist,
the depth of her feeling for him cannot be denied, even when she
risks everything to reveal it, as shown near the conclusion of
RULES OF VENGEANCE, the second book in the series.

While sequels of great books are often disappointing, Reich has
been on an upward trajectory since the introduction of the Ransoms
into the world of fiction, and this arc continues with RULES OF
BETRAYAL. The novel begins along three paths that start converging
early on. A top-secret weapon, lost nearly three decades ago in the
mountains of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, becomes the object of
a deadly race involving two of the world’s superpowers and
one of the world’s most dangerous terrorists. Meanwhile,
Jonathan is doing personal penance for past actions and is on his
own in a Taliban-controlled area of Afghanistan, performing medical
miracles under circumstances where his skill and bravery are tested
to the utmost. When he is abducted while in the middle of a
pediatric reconstructive surgery to treat a patient who is far less
worthy of his talents and compassion, it sets a series of wheels in
motion that won’t resolve themselves until close to the end
of the story. And Emma is caught in the crosshairs as a clandestine
mission she is on goes horribly wrong due to her betrayal by
someone in the Division, the U.S. intelligence agency for which she
ostensibly works.

Frank Connor, the head of the Division, is aware of
Jonathan’s darker abilities; after Jonathan is extracted from
dire circumstances in a daring, hair’s-breadth rescue, Connor
recruits Jonathan to rescue Emma and recover the lost weapon.
Jonathan’s adversaries in this pursuit are Lord Balfour, a
violent and sadistic arms dealer who is partly responsible for
Emma’s predicament (while using her for his own ends), and an
Islamist known as The Hawk, whose hatred of western civilization is
equaled, if not surpassed, only by his hatred of Jonathan. And
then, of course, there is Emma, whose own mysterious agenda is a
wild card in the entire proceedings. Jonathan has heart but is a
relatively raw recruit. He receives a crash course in spy craft
courtesy of what may or may not be the Mossad, but will it be
enough?

Reich ends RULES OF BETRAYAL with a number of intriguing balls
in the air while nonetheless providing a resolution to the main
plot. Thus the novel, as with its predecessors, is complete in
itself while leaving the reader in anticipation of the next volume
in the series. If Reich and his Rules books are not on
your “A” list of must reads, they should be.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 23, 2011

Rules of Betrayal
by Christopher Reich

  • Publication Date: July 13, 2010
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday
  • ISBN-10: 0385531540
  • ISBN-13: 9780385531542