Book Review: Fire of the Prophet - A Beck Casey Thriller by Earl Merkelcategories: Book, Suspense Thriller
Author: Earl Merkel
Publisher: Diversion Books
Emotionally-Grabbing, Intense Suspense, and Full of ActionEarl Markel's, Fire of the Prophet is unquestionably an extraordinary novel that is not only emotionally-grabbing but will also stand the test of time as a substantive fictional account of the Global War on Terror. Merkel writes with a seemingly journalistic approach that is well researched. He explores the world of power, misguided trust, espionage, and terrorism. Intense with suspense and full of action, this novel will be a favorite among avid suspense thriller readers.
Throughout the book the transfer of power is more than evident as a theme. From the gripping escape by Fatíma Huntsman, struggles with al-Qaeda-affiliated factions like the Haqqani Network, Lashkar-e-Taiba, to the sequences of action by Beck Casey and Jeffrey Connor. I felt the author even toys with the reader by the emphasis of meticulously detailed scientific facts of nuclear weapons, firearms, and then combining it with military knowledge. Merkel also purposely switches the names of cities of Culpepper, Virginia and Frederick, Maryland for fictional value. Furthermore, the author uses the literary technique of wordplay with the character names of Justin Beaver, Garth Brooks, among others. This is also a classic journalistic and media approach much like today that provides the 'Hollywood candy' while the real stories are often harder to decipher. Earl Merkel gives clues to this wit early on in the novel when Mason states to the President, "It is a chess match, and we find that any rational move we contemplate leaves us open to checkmate. We are forced to delay and definitive response, lest the knife turn in our own hand." However, the author later writes a scene where Beck Casey sat at a chess table which displayed no pieces, tying in to the earlier chess reference.
With excellent character development, Earl Merkel creates distinctive and memorable characters that remain with you long after you finish the novel. In fact, this keeps the novel interesting and suspenseful. Additionally, the author makes great use of vivid sensory details which makes the plot very plausible. A great example is, "It was only then that they heard faint noises from down the hallway, the kind of sounds a person might make if her mouth had been tenderly stuffed with a balled-up kitchen sponge and secured with a double-wrapping of fiberglass-reinforced heavy-duty plastic shipping tape." Moreover, the added conflict between characters such as Fatíma and her husband, Beck Casey and Mahoud Farzaneh sets a mood of distrust and a false sense of security. "Panic is an ugly beast; in one person, it is a savage focus on the need of the "me" to escape, to survive." this is a great example of how the author articulates the tone.
The book presents both sides of the global war on terror that is very relevant to our current events. There is an undertow of wry humor, but the main tone is serious, observant, and deeply intelligent. If you read closely you will note some personal hints to the author's past journalist days. After all, "There's no such thing as an 'ex-journalist.' At best, we're all just in recovery." Earl Merkel's ability to devise an intricate plot coupled with his understanding of relevant current events will leave the reader wanting more and anxiously waiting the sequel. I highly recommend Fire of the Prophet by Earl Merkel. [by Ginger Dawn Harman]
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