Review

Shadow of Betrayal: A Jonathan Quinn Novel

by Brett Battles

Jonathan Quinn is a character who does not fit neatly into a
particular classification. Ostensibly introduced as a
“cleaner” in Brett Battles’s brilliant debut
novel, THE CLEANER, Quinn’s job was to quietly erase on-site
traces of missions that had either gone well or awry. Battles has
widened the edges of Quinn’s mission considerably since then;
having demonstrated talents, aptitudes and abilities beyond his
chosen profession, Quinn increasingly has been called upon for
proactive and interceding roles in addition to cleaning up, if you
will, after himself and others. Quinn also has acquired a love
interest --- an exotic and dangerous woman named Orlando --- and an
apprentice, Nate.

The conclusion of THE DECEIVED, Battles’s second work,
left Nate badly and permanently damaged, but not out by any means.
SHADOW OF BETRAYAL, his latest novel, resolves the issue of
Nate’s continuing employment, which serves as a secondary
plot supporting, but not supplanting, the primary storyline.

The heart of SHADOW OF BETRAYAL is a complex plot based upon a
double-cross that is actually a manipulation. It is propelled by
the fulfillment by Quinn of an agreement with the enigmatic Peter,
arguably Quinn’s primary client. The agreement, at least on
paper, is relatively simple: Quinn is to perform three jobs for
Peter, no questions asked; following completion of the third job,
the two of them are quits.

The first takes place in Ireland, where Quinn and Nate are to
witness a handoff of information that winds up going badly awry.
The second happens in an abandoned New York apartment building
where a promise has turned into an apparent ambush, with a shocking
revelation waiting at its conclusion, which sends Quinn on the run
from law enforcement in a case of mistaken identity. The third and
final job actually has two parts that become three --- Peter most
assuredly went to law school --- and at first involves a trip to
Montreal to find a young woman named Marion Dupuis, a member of a
UN observer force in Africa who has fled that continent with a
young girl named Iris. In turn, Iris is being hunted by a
mysterious group of men who are abducting children who, like Iris,
have Down’s syndrome, for unknown reasons. Quinn and Nate,
with Orlando, just miss retrieving Dupuis; her other set of
pursuers are more fortunate, taking Dupuis and her charge to a
remote, well-hidden complex in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Quinn and Nate remain two steps behind until luck and a bit of
enhanced persuasion provide them with the information they need to
uncover a brilliant but twisted plot to disrupt the world’s
most powerful nations in one stroke. Racing against time, Quinn
leads his team against a cold genius with an apparently foolproof
plan, while history hangs in a precarious balance.

Battles is magnificent --- one of the best, even at this
relatively early point in his career --- at taking what in lesser
hands would be a jumble of a plot and leading the reader
incrementally through it. SHADOW OF BETRAYAL starts well and ends
magnificently, building slowly but methodically. Battles baits
the hook early on with a chase through an African city that ends
badly, but somehow plausibly, in Toronto, leaving the
“why” dangling until near the end of the book. You know
the bad guys are fiends fairly early on; they are collecting
special-needs children for some nefarious purpose. When you find
out what they want them for, however, you get a clue as to why they
are the scum of the earth. Quinn’s reaction at one point is
understandable, even justifiable, as is Orlando’s at another.
Rather than presenting their actions as simple gratuitous violence,
however (which in this genre absolutely has its place), there is
justifiable purpose to them; a reasonable person would do no
less.

Additionally, the residuals of Nate’s prior injury, which
resulted in one of his legs being amputated, is an unknown factor
that hovers around and through the book. Quinn, feeling somewhat
responsible for the situation, is unsure of Nate’s abilities
and deficiencies; Nate, for his part, chafes at Quinn’s
sheltering. The issue is resolved by book’s end, with what
would be a limitation becoming an asset at one point. Add a plot
twist that will provide fodder for future Quinn novels for as long
as Battles wants to write them, throwing in a subtle in-joke or two
for aficionados of thriller literature, and you have a work that
not only provides incentive to read the next Quinn novel but also
sets a challenging standard for it.

Warning: If you pack a lunch for a grade school student, you
will never do so again without thinking about SHADOW OF BETRAYAL.
You might give one object in particular a look or two just before
you put it in the bag. Don’t say you weren’t
warned.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 23, 2011

Shadow of Betrayal: A Jonathan Quinn Novel
by Brett Battles

  • Publication Date: May 25, 2010
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Mass Market Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Dell
  • ISBN-10: 0440243726
  • ISBN-13: 9780440243724