(Reviewed by D. Donovan, eBook Reviewer, Midwest Book Reviews: November 2014)
Black Rose Writing
9781612964157 $16.95 www.blackrosewriting.com
Murder, terrorism, unfair death: all these often beget thirsts for revenge; and so the cycle continues. Such is true with Fallon MacEwan, the hero of Fallon's Orphans, whose lover has been killed by Islamic terrorists; so when an Orthodox Christian group places the opportunity for revenge in his hands, he gladly enters into a hitherto-unknown world of battle and espionage.
And that's just the opening act in a nonstop battle that centers around an inexperienced vigilante group's determination to bring justice to the world by tackling terrorist groups the government can't handle. Its members are all orphans - and that's both a literal and a figurative label; because the one shared attribute between them is their sense of loss and conviction that they're doing the right thing by crushing a dangerous enemy who kills innocents in the world.
And here's where things get interesting; for the real war against terrorism isn't fought with guns and artillery, as the enemy well knows - it's fought with hearts, minds, and an ingenuity which takes into account local customs, concerns of villagers mired in poverty, and local pictures. Thus Fallon's band of orphans plan their attacks on terrorism alongside the targets themselves: in an Indian village where a small sit-in has the potential (with the right financial backing) of becoming a media sensation; in Egypt, where a mother and daughter team play out a dangerous game, and even in Paris, France, where enemies threaten to uncover a deeply held secret.
It's truly an international setting, it's truly a wide-reaching force competing on many levels, and at each turn of the page these different worlds and their concerns come to life through touch, smell, and visual description: "Dinner was simple, with phuchkas, or bite-sized balls of potato, chickpeas, onions and spices, along with rice mixed with small bits of lamb and cucumber in a yogurt sauce…The temperature at nine o'clock had dropped into the low eighties and was comfortable. The smell from the tanning factory continued to be disgusting."
Most stories of terrorism and espionage don't take the time to properly build atmosphere. Most don't take into account the hearts and minds - not just the artillery and fighting power - of ordinary people. Not so Fallon's Orphans, which is meticulous in its attention to setting as well as plot, and to creating insights on how terrorism really works in worlds replete with poverty.
Another 'plus': there's no traditional 'bad sect' here, as one might anticipate: just insights into what influences good and bad choices in the world: "…he deplored the tactics of the people who own and manage the tanning factory to take over the village. "Killing people for financial gain is not the way of Allah," he commented."
As Fallon manages his team, he comes to find romance and also the certainty that in the process of actively addressing evil in the world, he has actually found and formed his 'family of choice'. And their success or failure holds the potential to change the world for better or for worse.
Fallon's Orphans provides the depth and attention to detail that's lacking in many modern stories of terrorism. It's action-packed, but its attention to motivation, logic, and larger concerns than killings makes it a standout among thriller genre reads - and highly recommended.