Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Hammer of Eden - Ken Follett

I am a real fan of historical fiction and what I call 'chick lit'. Over the years, I have struggled to step out into other genres and expand my reading. I've always been comfortable with my favorite literary niches, but Ken Follett (and a handful of other authors) is slowly changing my mind.  He can write a highly digestible page-turner. I was first introduced to him years ago when I read his tome The Pillars of the Earth ... historical fiction at its best. It was later, though, that I discovered that he also wrote crime and political thrillers, a genre in which I have very little interest ... most of the time ... usually ...

Over the weekend, I was having trouble with a sprained ankle that I've been trying to heal. I had to keep my leg elevated much of the time and so, after a limpy-gimpy trip to the library, I came home with Follett's thriller about eco- terrorism and blackmail, The Hammer of Eden. I usually have three or four books going at a time, but in this case, I reserved all my reading time for this page-turner.  The only other time that I have stepped out into thriller genre and got totally lost in the book was when Dan Brown's The DaVinci Code hit the stands.

Follett's book revolves around two characters and their crises that intersect ... FBI special agent Judith Maddox is a crackerjack at catching the 'baddies'. She has just won a case against a group of Asian thugs and is thinking that putting the Foong brothers in prison will make her a shoo-in for the supervisor of  the Asian Organized Crime squad in the FBI's San Francisco headquarters. She has a rival for the job, however, and when she returns to the office to share her victory, she finds that her boss has been hospitalized and her rival and his crony are now in charge. She gets the boot to a desk in Domestic Terrorism and is ready to quit her job and take up an offer from a prominent law firm, when she gets handed a case involving a threat by an unknown cult called The Hammer of Eden.

Aging hippie grifter, Ricky "Priest" Granger has spent the past twenty-five years playing the spiritual leader at a remote commune that is situated on state land in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. He and his communards have worked hard to keep under the government's radar while they have planted their leased land with top quality grape vines and have developed an extremely high quality Chardonnay that is supporting their alternative lifestyle. Things are about to change, though. The commune has received a letter from the State of California Bureau of Land Management stating that their lease is not being renewed and that they must leave the land in five months. The region will be flooded when the Silver River is dammed up to make a power plant to supply the increasingly power hungry California citizenry. Ricky Granger is not about to let that happen ... he is willing to do anything to keep his extended 'family', business, and his idyllic lifestyle ... he will murder, scheme, and even cause environmental mayhem in order to get the Governor to rescind his agenda on creating new power plants. Granger steals a powerful machine that creates seismic pulses, used to look for oil deposits and subverts its use to threaten a powerful earthquake and he calls this project The Hammer of Eden.

What follows is a fast paced race by Maddox and her cohorts at the FBI and Granger and his commune collaborators to play a deadly game of chase ... a game that has the potential to destroy vast areas of California and kill thousands.  Follett does a good job of weaving into the story's scaffold several other characters and their backstories, giving the reader a full plate of political cronies, sexy hippies, vindictive wives, troubled kids, difficult scientific geeks, and a smarmy talk radio host that is playing the story of The Hammer of Eden to the max in order to drum up his audience numbers. It's a fun novel that races whilly-nilly right up to the last page.

Maybe I can branch out into the thriller genre ... this book wasn't half bad!

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