Review

Rules of Vengeance

by Christopher Reich

Christopher Reich hit a new highwater mark for himself in 2008
with RULES OF DECEPTION, an intriguing tale about a skilled surgeon
who discovers that his wife is an espionage agent and has been
leading a double life --- and deceiving him --- throughout their
marriage. The novel ended with the possibility, though not
necessarily the promise, of a sequel. RULES OF VENGEANCE, which
picks up where RULES OF DECEPTION left off, is much more than a
sequel; it is one of those books that authors dream of and readers
die for.

Reich has always been a solid author, but RULES OF VENGEANCE is
far and away his best book to date, combining action, mystery and
human interest into a compelling and unstoppable experience. The
story picks up approximately six months after RULES OF DECEPTION
ends. Dr. Jonathan Ransom has taken a short leave from his Doctors
Without Borders humanitarian practice in Africa to attend a medical
conference in London where he has been invited to present a
lecture. But he has hardly checked into his hotel when he is given
enigmatic instructions that result in a reunion with his wife,
Emma, whom he has not seen in over six months. Emma has been on the
run from her old employer, Division, a secret American intelligence
agency she betrayed during the events that took place in RULES OF
DECEPTION.

Ransom’s time with Emma is short and bittersweet; after
informing him that she will be gone for at least a year, she
disappears. Or attempts to. Ransom has practically no training in
espionage, but is able to follow her to a location in London where
he witnesses a horrific event: Emma detonates a car bomb that kills
a group of bystanders and injures several others, including a
Russian ambassador. Worse, it is Ransom who is blamed for the
bloodbath by Kate Ford, an inspector with the London Metropolitan
Police, and Colonel Graves, a dyspeptic but quietly competent
higher-up with MI-5. Ford, already investigating the mysterious
murder of a think tank genius, is convinced that it and the bombing
are linked.

Not only must Ransom clear himself, he also has to find his wife
in order to prevent her from carrying out the next stages of a
terrorist action that he is convinced will have worldwide
ramifications. In a scene worth the price of the book all by
itself, Ransom manages to escape from custody. While being the
object of a continent-wide manhunt, he travels from Italy to
France, following a cold trail that Emma left six months before but
that provides the only clues to her current whereabouts, as well as
to the chilling target of her next mission.

There are many things to love about RULES OF VENGEANCE. One is
the presentation of a locked room mystery during the first third of
the book, which is solved through a combination of modern
technology and keen-eyed observation, with the emphasis on the
latter rather than the former. There is also the pursuit of Ransom
through London and onto the European continent with the combined
might and majesty of multiple police forces nipping at his heels.
Ransom is not a trained spy, which is evident throughout the book.
What he does possess is a keen ability to think on his feet, and
quickly, so that those bits of spycraft he’s picked up from
Emma are adapted on the fly to meet the situation. And, if you
thought you had exhausted your tolerance for car chase scenes,
reserve judgment until Reich takes you on a mountain road pursuit
that has the potential to end badly.

But my favorite element of RULES OF VENGEANCE is the ending,
whereby Reich manages to raise more questions than are answered,
sets up as many future volumes of this series as he might wish to
write, and yet provides a satisfying conclusion that makes the book
complete in and of itself. That is smart, intelligent and
thoroughly entertaining storytelling, which is what you will find
in RULES OF VENGEANCE from first page to last.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 23, 2011

Rules of Vengeance
by Christopher Reich

  • Publication Date: August 4, 2009
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday
  • ISBN-10: 0385524072
  • ISBN-13: 9780385524070