Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Eighth Day - John Case

    2002; 370 pages.  New Author(s)? : No.  Genre : Thriller.  Overall Rating : 7½*/10.

    Talk about a bizarre way to kill yourself.  Christian Terio went down to the local Home Depot and bought himself some cinder blocks and mortar.  Then he drove home and walled himself into a corner of his basement.  By the time the cops found his corpse a couple weeks later, it was an ugly sight.

    Meanwhile, Danny Cray, a full-time artist and part-time private investigator (the latter pays poorly, but better than the former) has just been offered a outwardly simple but financially rewarding job.  He’s to look into someone who’s been waging a smear campaign against a wealthy Italian business magnate.  Tap into their phone records, e-mails, etc.  Find out who his friends and associates are.

    This libel-spreader has a name, of course.  It’s Christian Terio.

What’s To Like...
    The bit of self-immurement in the prologue sets the stage for a fast-paced tale of Intrigue and Action.  The settings are both familiar (Washington DC and California) and the exotic (Italy, Turkey, and Switzerland).  The Intrigue predominates in the first part of the book, as Danny tries to figure out who are the good guys are and who are the baddies.  Once that is (somewhat) clarified, the Action takes over in the form of an extended chase scene.

    The storytelling is great.  You’re never quite sure whether paranormal forces are at play or not, and I always like that.  As with any Thriller, our hero faces a seemingly insurmountable challenge, and the tension builds as each of his plans is foiled by a powerful, well-connected enemy who always seems to be two steps ahead of him.

    I especially liked the portions of the book (roughly 25% of it) that took place in Turkey.  John Case doesn’t limit the “visit” to Istanbul; we also journey to lesser-known cities in eastern Turkey.  The Turkish people are not stereotyped, and it’s refreshing to see even the common folk among them nobly aiding a helpless, down-on-his-luck American.

    You also get a nice dose of culture - both Italian and Turkish.  In Italy, you visit Rome, Siena, and experience the Palio.  In Turkey you will meet Yezidis and Kurds, and learn the religious significance of peacocks.  The Nobel Prize-winning Turkish author, Orhan Pamuk, also gets a plug; I’ve read a couple of his novels and enjoy him immensely.

    The character development is okay, albeit not spectacular.  Danny has his weaknesses, which is nice to see, but he’s more lucky than good.  The bad guys are uniformly black, and if you’re a good guy, it’s not particularly healthy to cross paths with Danny.  It all builds to an exciting ending, plus a sappy epilogue that cleanly resolves the secondary romantic storyline.

Kewlest New Word . . .
Stylite (n.) : A religious ascetic who spends his life on top of a pillar.
Others : Incunabula (n., pl.); Immure (v.); Anchorite (n.); Myoclonic (adj.)

    Evil was real, he knew that, but it was not incarnate.  The devil was like . . . the Tooth Fairy.
    “So what did he look like?” Danny asked at last.  “Horns, tail, what?”
    The priest shook his head, looking slightly embarrassed.  “Chris didn’t say.  Just that he was riding in a Bentley.”
    “The devil.”
    “Right.” (. . .) Inzaghi leaned forward with a sly grin and added, “You’d think the devil would have a Rolls, wouldn’t you?”  (loc. 1510)

    “And you would like to go to?”
    “Uzelyurt,” Danny replied.  (. . . )
    “I’m told it’s near Diyarbakir,” Danny explained.
    Frowning, the man chewed on Danny’s pronunciation for a while, and then he understood.  “Deeyarbakeer!” he exclaimed.  “What an interesting place to visit!”
    “Is it?”
    “Absolutely!  From the airport to city – one knife fight guaranteed.  In the city, who knows?”   (loc. 3179)

Kindle Details...
    The Eighth Day sells for $5.49 at Amazon.  Three other John Case books cost from $5.49 or $5.99.  It looks like two other books that I read a long time ago, The First Horseman and The Genesis Code, are not yet available for the Kindle.  Which is a pity since those are the two most popular John Case offerings.

”Even crazy people have reasons for what they do.  They’re just crazy reasons.”  (loc. 432)
    The action and intrigue are great, but the plotline has some weaknesses.  I was never quite sold on the Nanotechnology angle, which felt clunky and ill-fitting.  Also, the “Norwegian connection” seemed underdeveloped and/or superfluous.  Finally, I am dumbfounded that our baddies, who understandably want to remain “below the radar”, commit two of their executions in headline-grabbing manner.

    Still, The Eighth Day was a fun read with enough action and intrigue to keep me turning the pages.  I don’t remember having any quibbles with the other two John Case books I’ve read, but it’s been about 15 years since I read them.  Maybe I was less picky back then, or maybe they were just better written.  Methinks it might be time to re-read one or both. 

    7½ Stars.  You will never meet or even see a picture of John Case.  That’s because it’s the pseudonym of a husband-wife writing team, Jim and Carolyn Hougan.  Sadly, when Carolyn passed away in 2007, the joint effort came to an end after just six novels.

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