I could have loved this tale of intrigue, nazis and cute CIA agents, but the ridiculously stereotyped nature of the characters let me down. Which is a shame, because I really enjoyed aspects of the writing style.
Jeremy Novacek is a self-confessed screw-up, albeit an outwardly successful one. He works at one of one of America's top financial firms and up until six months ago was a rising star. Then one night of stupidity cost him his fancy free lifestyle, and he slowly began destroying himself with booze and women.
One morning, two servicemen arrive at his front door to announce the death of his father, a man who's name he gave up and hasn't seen for many years. He goes to see his invalid mother, who breaks down entirely and passes along a cryptic key to a family secret. Jeremy is a little intrigued, but his interest in piqued entirely when he discovers that his boss, Bernard, is actually far more embroiled in his mysterious family history than he thought.
When Jeremy realises he holds the key to a massive CIA secret leading back to Nazi Germany, he realises it's time to finish off what his father started. He could be the only person able to prevent an international crisis if he can work out what his father was working on when his cover was blown. Bernard sends him to Switzerland in the care of CIA agent Jackie Walls, in the hope that he returns with the contents of a safe deposit box immediately. But the enemy are serious, and it is only thanks to an unshakeable Mossad agent Jeremy and Jackie get out alive.
What is the secret, what is Mossad's interest, and can Jeremy and Jackie work quickly enough to prevent a crisis?
The point of view is divided between first person chatty (Jeremy) and a variety of third person limiteds – including Jackie, Bernard, Eytan (the Mossad agent). There is also the occasional historical visit to Nazi Germany. The tense confused me initially. Obviously the Nazi Germany components are written in the past tense, and everything in third person is also written in past tense, but Jeremy's bits are written in the present tense. It obviously gives the reader a more intimate and immediate connection to Jeremy's character, but it's a bit of a jolter.
The chattiness, on the other hand, is a theme through the book and is, I assume, a major part of the narrative voice both in English and French. And, to the author's credit, it certainly adds a dimension to the writing which is both humorous and human – a dimension which is often missing in other novels of this genre that take themselves just way too seriously. I admit to snickering often at the beginning of the book, because even though it seemed that Jeremy was a bit of an idiot it was clearly deliberate, and his jumpy train-of-thought processes endeared him to me.
The story is also pretty decent-- it moves, there's lots of gun play, and the premise of the Nazi project – run by a man called Bleiberg – is very interesting. It's fun and action packed. My issue, which started as minor and became major, wasn't so much the lack of strong female characters, but the transformation of what should have been a strong female character into a shit female character. Jackie Walls - who Jeremy refers to as “Buffy” in his head – sure, she's small and cute. Got it. And she's a professional. Apparently. But the further along I got in the reading experienced the more she was just an airhead who couldn't look after herself and needed constant saving by Mossad, and when she occasionally did something that wasn't dumb, she acted pleased with herself. Joss Whedon would be rolling over in his proverbial grave if he knew his kickarse vampire slayer creation was being compared to this cutesy irritation. Sure, a female character can have Buffyesque traits, but Buffy also really, really knows what she's doing, and people RESPECT HER FOR MORE THAN JUST BEING HOT. Jeremy's response to Jackie as a character made me grit my teeth, and Jackie didn't do herself any favours. The characters didn't grow or develop, they limped. And while this may be suitable for an action novel, the characters actually have to be worthwhile in the first place, or become people I actually like or care about as a reader. And while I loved the Mossad agent as a character, the other two main characters let me down badly.
Look, it's action pulp and the storyline and writing style are okay. If you were at an airport and it was this or James Rollins or one of the more famous writers of god awful pulp who don't even try any more, then buy this, for goodness sake. At least it's got a humorous narrative stream.
Gender stereotypes. Sorry. Couldn't help myself.
|Title:||The Bleiberg Project|
|Publisher:||Le French Book|
|Genre(s):||Crime Fiction, Thriller|