Monday, January 13, 2014

Book Review: "Hidden Order" By Brad Thor - Review by Phil Baker

Brad Thor is a NYT bestselling author because he knows how to construct a thriller. Thor avoids formulaic predictability in Hidden Order by weaving two imaginative plotlines, creating some depth and texture. In this novel, the 12th in the Scot Harvath series, Harvath mixes it up with two drop-dead beauties and a brilliant ex-CIA agent. Hidden Order, 374 pages, was published by Simon and Schuster in 2013 and lives up to the standards of Thor. It’s available at the Portland Public Library but currently has a waiting list. It’s worth the wait if you like a jaunty and fast-developing thriller. 

Former SEAL Harvath is now employed by a super-secret organization that is a private CIA/ FBI type of outfit and has fallen on hard times. Apparently the outfit is extremely capable in all departments except accounting. They might be saved by a contract with the Federal Bank that abhors publicity like a vampire shrinks from a cross. And nobody wants the kind of publicity they receive at the beginning of this tale. The five candidates for the open chairmanship are being knocked off systematically with spectacular cruelty and gruesome technique.

The simple-minded assassin is counter-intuitively creative and combines his murderous proclivities with an academic soft spot for history like an autistic savant. We are taken from a sick murder scene on the outer banks of Georgia to the blood spattered “Freedom Trail” of Boston. The killer focuses on the birth of the Fed and some colonial American personalities that helped develop US monetary policies. Harvath teams up with an ex-CIA genius, who has a grasp of the Fed’s sordid history, and a gorgeous Boston detective to try to bring the killings to an end. 

Meanwhile, along a parallel plotline, Lydia Ryan, current CIA agent and drop-dead beauty number two, works on a case involving an international plot to overthrow Middle Eastern governments. The two plots careen towards each other to combine for a satisfying climax.

Federal Reserve policy might sound like some heavy eyelids stuff, but Thor makes it work. He asks the reader to suspend belief which, in these days of Internet and TV driven hyper-reality, is a tall (if not hidden) order. And he brings on a well-paced, tightly constructed story built around enticing, if not believable, characters. I checked reality at the door and took a seat at the bar. I ordered a glass of entertainment and Thor delivered.

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