Crime Scene: STEVE P VINCENT The Foundation: Jack Emery 1; Fireplay: Jack Emery 0.5. Reviewed by Michael Jongen
The Foundation is the first book in a fun and gripping thriller series featuring a tough and resourceful Australian journalist.
We first meet Jack Emery in The Foundation as he wakes from a drunken slumber, late for his morning meeting at his newspaper. Life is tough; he is separated from his wife, Erin, and she is about to take a journalistic assignment that should be his. It is also a tense time for his newspaper’s proprietor, Ernest McDowell, the owner and chairman of a large media empire. Due to a scandal involving one of his London tabloids, McDowell has had to close down a paper and is being subjected to government scrutiny and accountability. However his (and Jack’s) problems are only just beginning.
The Foundation is a think tank that has pretensions to being a major player in the international power game and it has arranged for a Taiwanese terrorist to bomb a World Trade Organisation conference. One of the many victims of the attack is Erin.
The Foundation’s deputy director, the ruthless and cunning Michelle Dominique, realises that in order to fulfil the organisation’s aspirations of creating war and chaos, leading to a takeover of the American government, she needs to have the media on side. Exploiting McDowell’s commercial vulnerability, she blackmails him into throwing his media empire behind the call for war on China:
Michelle smiled. ‘… you best hold up your end when the time comes. I think you understand the extremes to which I’m able to project my displeasure.’
‘You can start with having a front page editorial in the Standard tomorrow, calling for America to protect Taiwan, deploy assets, recognition – all that jazz. A sign of goodwill.’
He grunted, stood and exited without another word.
… Things were moving and it was time for her to make her final push … There were only a few things left to do.
As the situation grows more desperate, it is up to Jack to reveal the conspiracy before the world goes to war
Author Steve Vincent has a degree in political science and history, and his honours thesis was on the topic of global terrorism, enabling him to present a knowledgeable, entertaining and interesting set of circumstances that could feasibly set off a global crisis. With wit and tongue in cheek, he takes on the thriller format and all its tropes. This is an action-packed, fast-paced novel full of tension and suspense; there is a desperate hero facing powerful enemies; the action takes place in world hot spots and Jack spends much time travelling between capital cities against an ever shrinking deadline. And in Michelle Dominique and Ernest McDowell, Vincent has created two wonderfully ambiguous, vainglorious characters.
Fireplay is a long story published after The Foundation but set earlier, in the Afghan War. In this story we meet a younger Jack on his way to becoming a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. He has been embedded with a group of marines for three months and is becoming concerned that he has run out of interesting things to write. Then his convoy of Humvees is attacked by a lone individual who appears to have escaped from a nearby secret facility. What Jack subsequently uncovers puts his life at risk. Will he be able to get the story published, and at what cost?
Jack’s eyes widened. He had no idea that politics within the Marines Corps ran so deep. ‘What about my story?’
Oritz smiled. ‘Once you get back to the States you’ll have your information, Jack.’
Jack nodded. He understood. He was being given his life and his story in return for keeping his mouth shut about the Marine Corps cleaning up their mess. He didn’t know what politics were playing out between the Marine Corps and the CIA, or even what else would occur in future, but all he knew was that he wanted out of Afghanistan. He’d had enough of the country’s hospitality.
This is a more paranoid and nuanced story about rendition, torture and shadowy military characters operating outside the normal rules of engagement, in a realistic and frightening scenario.
Jack Emery is a tough and resourceful journalist hero pitted against well-drawn and morally ambiguous villains determined to undermine the stability of the free world. The Foundation and Fireplay mark the beginnings of a vibrant thriller series with international appeal, slyly written and entertaining, which should satisfy fans of the genre.
He hefted the Pulitzer – still surprised by its weight – and climbed out of the car. He couldn’t wait to show Erin and to go into work on Monday.
Things were on the up.
Steve P Vincent The Foundation: Jack Emery 1 Momentum 2014 326pp PB $24.99 ebook $5.99
Steve P Vincent Fireplay: Jack Emery 0.5 Momentum 2015 free ebook
Michael Jongen is a librarian who tweets as @michael_jongen and microblogs at http://larrythelibrarian.tumblr.com
You can buy The Foundation here.
Books 2 (State of Emergency) and 3 (Nations Divided) of the Jack Emery series are also available here.