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Smokescreen by Khaled Talib and The Washington Lawyer by Alan Topol

Smokescreen” and “The Washington Lawyer” are two new international and political thrillers sure to find their share of avid fans.  Both have wickedly devious and complex plots and smart, appealing protagonists.  “Smokescreen” was published in paperback in January 2014 and “The Washington Lawyer” comes out in March 2015.

The author of “Smokescreen,” Khalid Talib, like his protagonist, is a magazine writer living in Singapore.  His story centers around a plot by members of Israli intelligence to have their prime minister killed rather than to allow that prime minister to forge a new peace accord with the Palestinians.  The deed is to happen during a visit to Singapore and is to be blamed on the Eurasian society feature writer, Jet West, a twenty-something journalist who until now has worried more about his watch collection and his fashionable wardrobe than doing something up close and personal to stop an act of terrorism.  He is assisted in his effort to save his good name, his life and foil this assasination plot by a young Singaporean district attorney and the American ambassador to Singapore.  The one orchestrating the assassination plot is a high ranking Singaporean government official who doubles as an Israeli spy.  At first I did not find Jet very likable.  He starts out rather shallow and immature, but he very quickly grows up and develops a moral compass in order to save the day. I think many younger readers will identify with Jet; he is in many ways the international face of the millenial generation.

Shortly after I finished “Smokescreen” I began “The Washington Lawyer” by Allan Topol.  I have read and liked Topol’s thrillers in the past, and this one is no exception.  In fact, I find Topol’s new work chillingly realistic and plausible.  An American senator secures a favor from an old friend, a Washington attorney who is being considered for the position of Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.  The Senator borrows the attorney’s beach house on the Caribbean island of Anguilla, but what he does not tell the lawyer is that he is taking his mistress with him to the beach house and not his wife.  The Senator also has a dirty little secret:  he has been passing defence secrets on to the Chinese for years.  When the mistress winds up dead– apparently through accidental drowning– the woman’s sister, Allison, decides to investigate.  She goes to Anguilla to investigate and quickly shoots holes in the police conclusion that her sister drown, but she finds everyone very closed-mouth about who she was with on the island or how she got to the location where she supposedly washed up on the beach.  The attorney gets caught between his conscience and his need to protect the truths that he finds out about his friend lest it taint his chances at the Supreme Court.  The plot is very sharp and edgy and so disturbingly realistic.

Of these two I personally liked “The Washington Lawyer” the most because I could see how easily decent and intelligent people can make one wrong decision that leads to ruin of many lives.  This book is particularly thought-provoking.  That being said, “Smokescreen” is a very good action thriller with colorful and memorable characters and an interesting plot that will appeal particularly to millenial readers.  Both are recommended.

Reviewed from supplied copies.

Liz Nichols

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The Feng Shui Detective Goes West by Nury Vittachi

I received a review copy of “The Feng Shui Detective Goes West” by Sri Lankan author now living in Hong Kong, Nury Vittachi.  This is the second of the “Master Wong Mystery” series. I spent a couple of entertaining evenings reading this quirky and funny mystery that was released on November 16 by Felony & Mayhem Press.

Master Wong is an old-fashioned Chinese sleuth who resides in Singapore.  He is what in the West we’d consider superstitious, but in the East would be considered wise in the ways of feng shui or positive energy.  He aligns the environment surrounding his clients, their schedules, associates, etc. in order to bring balance and positive energy in their lives.  In the process he often discovers misdeeds that he can resolve.

Wong is not a fan of Europeans and Americans, but he puts up with them when he needs the cash, and in this story he needs the cash fast.  He takes on a job to evaluate the feng shui of the world’s first flying office, a British aircraft called Skyparc and then agrees to take its maiden voyage from Singapore to London, along with his assistant, in order to perform a feng shui analysis of one of the royal palaces in the UK for “Mrs. Windsor” the Queen. Wong’s introduction to HRH Elizabeth will either leave you in stitches or cringing over the faux pax.

Along the way he solves who killed one of the BM Petroleum officials who had an office at Skyparc and he saves the aircraft from destruction in a rather thrilling move.

Master Wong is a unique and refreshing addition to the world of sleuths and I will look forward to reading more from this series.

Liz Nichols

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