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I believe I’ve mentioned before that I’d like to be Stephanie Black, right? Well, I finally got ahold of her first book, The Believer. Although plot-wise, it’s completely different from Fool Me Twice (my review), I saw some definite parallels in the complexity of the mystery plots.
The Believer deals with a future dystopia where religion is outlawed. The main character, a history professor, has slowly wandered down the path of “treason,” reading unapproved and even (gasp!) religious literature—a crime punishable by life in prison.
As Dr Roshek (which is an anagram of kosher! Am I not clever?) tries to do the right thing, his world begins to fall apart the day that he is arrested for defending a student accused of treason—a stranger—from a brutal attack.
Like Fool Me Twice, the plot is very complex. I was happy that I couldn’t guess the ending of the book—by the black moment, it definitely looked like there was no way any of the main characters would make it out alive. However, the plot wasn’t so complex that I felt lost or overwhelmed—just like with Stephanie’s other book, as the book neared the climax, I could see some things coming (though there were a few surprises!), but only about 20 pages in advance. She did a good job of planting clues, too—in such a way that you could remember them if you’d paid attention.
In a way, this reminded me of All’s Fair by Julie Coulter Bellon—with terrorists insurgents trying to overthrow the government, but mostly because I was all ready to pull out my American Heritage principles to teach just why insurgencies don’t work. Really, as a history professor, Stephanie’s protagonist could have even lectured on these principles himself.
As always, I have to point out anything that detracted from the story for me. Lt. Alisa Kent, a policewoman torn between duty to her country and her conscience, is supposed to be severe, from her coloring and clothing to her mannerisms and speech. But sometimes she came off as more wooden than severe to me.
I’m eagerly awaiting Stephanie’s latest book, Methods of Madness, which is due out this month!
What do you think? Would you (or your writing) benefit from learning about why insurgencies fail? Do you like books to be complex enough to be unpredictable?