Sunday, October 22, 2017

Act of Betrayal by Mathew Dunn - Book Review

Act of Betrayal: A Will Cochrane Novel by Matthew Dunn (William Morrow, 2017, 320 Pages, $18.35/12.99) is a spy thriller from the macho, uber male, perspective of super-spy Will Cochrane, who, for reasons I can't understand, has reached the seventh volume of an apparently popular series. After reading the first few chapters of this book, I decided it wasn't for me. I don't generally read thrillers heavy on the U.S. spy system, special forces, or other gung-ho, macho adventures featuring shooters, shooting, and graphic violence. Nevertheless, I asked myself, why don't you consider continuing to read, mostly in order to affirm your preconceived ideas about this kind of novel. Surprise! While still not finished and having reached the "desire to see how this all works out" stage, I started to became really engaged by the ambivalence and complexity of this novel, so that around 25%, the beginning of Chapter 11, into the book, I decided to stay to the end. However, by the time I finished, I was sorry to have given so much time and credability to a world view I abhor.

Act of Betrayal is filled with action, lots of heroics, and, particularly lots of spy, CIA, and FBI talk. Also, featuring unlikely heroics, and an increasingly awkward convoluted plot that becomes too garbled with characters and too violent to approach plausibility, the novel begins to drag. Never having read a novel focused on this particular audience before, I wished better to understand the appeal beyond the action. It seems to engage the orientation towards conspiracy, admiration for doomed assassins working for “truth” and willing to use huge amounts of violence to achieve it. Also, the character of Will Cochrane stands beyond any sort of verisimilitude. Alliances extend to men (and women) of achievement beyond reasonable alliances, as a secret power within the CIA, a former Israeli agent, and a Russian, combine their efforts to stop the villain(s). The evil encountered rises all the way to the oval office.

The story opens as Will Cochrane, the finest shot of any assassin in the world, undertakes, successfully, to shoot at 3000 yards,a mysterious, but certainly evil, uber spy traveling along the autobahn at high speed. Of course, his head shot obliterates with one shot the man identified to him, and then he disappears. Three years later he appears to have committed suicide by jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge after having murdered a number of “innocent” people. The top agents of both the FBI and the CIA have long since stopped seeking him, until certain familiar habits begin to re-assert themselves, and it becomes obvious that Cochrane is, indeed, alive and back at work. There follow 300 pages of twists and turns as Cochrane seeks to set matters right with little concern for his own life, committed to exposing the “truth.”

In the world of Act of Betrayal the ends always justify the means, even when they include the violent death of ill doers without anything approaching due process. The hero, no... protagonist, is the purest of the pure. Comments about him by others point to his always doing “what's right.” Will Cochrane is beyond competent, a deadly killer with a perfect body, super reflexes, and completely under his own control. He never hesitates to instantly obliterate every person he concludes is guilty. His actions are justified because they are “right.” Legality has little or nothing to do with his choices, because his own motives are “pure.” He's accountable to no one but himself.

Matthew Dunn

The following profile of Matthew Dunn is provided by the publisher: “As an MI6 field officer, Matthew Dunn recruited and ran agents, coordinated and participated in special operations, and acted in deep-cover roles throughout the world. He operated in highly hostile environments, where, if compromised and captured, he would have been executed. Dunn was trained in all aspects of intelligence collection, deep-cover deployments, small-arms, explosives, military unarmed combat, surveillance, and infiltration. Medals are never awarded to modern MI6 officers, but Dunn was the recipient of a very rare personal commendation from the secretary of state for foreign and commonwealth affairs for work he did on one mission, which was deemed so significant that it directly influenced the successful conclusion of a major international incident. During his time in MI6, Dunn conducted approximately seventy missions. All of them were successful. He lives in England.” Wikipedia, however, places this description into doubt by preceding it with,  “according to his publicity agents,” casting the entire bio into question.

Act of Betrayal: A Will Cochrane Novel by Matthew Dunn (William Morrow, 2017, 320 Pages, $18.35/12.99) portrays a perfectly corrupt government salvaged only by a few hidden “true” rebels who, deeply embedded in various agencies, manage to save us from our own self-destruction. In this fictional world, there are a few “good” men and women with incomparable skills willing to endure the privation and suffering necessary to save the rest of us from the worst of us. I cannot recommend this novel to any reader save those already addicted to such tripe. I read the book in digital format supplied to me by the publisher through Edelweiss on my Kindle app

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