Ivan “The Butcher” Bulovski has found a way to manufacture diamonds to use in a super computer that is so advanced it can be used to unsettle world markets, destroy economies or execute the largest bank heist in history – double digit billions stolen and untraceable. Can the FBI or the world stop him?
By David M. Salkin
There are actually three stories here that are fairly unconnected: the FBI’s pursuit of the fake diamonds in the United States, the Butcher’s chase after technological supremacy (and unlimited wealth) and finally Max’s flight from the Butcher to freedom. All three happen simultaneously and all three feature the Butcher but they don’t overlap. And because they don’t tie together in the end I’m left with the impression that these are actually different stories. Unfortunately, the different stories don’t hold up well on their own or together.
[SPOILERS] For instance, the FBI agents, Still, Walker and Hollohan, never encounter the Butcher or even more than a couple mafia thugs. A non-FBI task force takes down a single cell while they watch and then when the Butcher is caught – I called SPOILERS – he is sent to Guantanamo Bay where he is held by the CIA and military. Basically, the FBI agents have a very small role in the story where they serve as a plot device to explain the diamonds to the reader. In that case, it is acceptable that they are not very well developed – they are military-jargon speaking macho-men who mostly speak in cliché. And they don’t come across as heroes when they ignore the law by not giving arrested men their Miranda rights, access to lawyers, and use techniques like you’d expect in a country less developed and less moral than the United States. Walker says, for instance, “Let’s get something straight. This isn’t a Hollywood movie and you won’t be under the protections of the US constitution where we take you… What is going to happen is that you are going to answer a very long list of questions, and then maybe we can discuss how you can survive afterward… You know, a—hole, before 9/11, we might have had to get you [a lawyer.] But the public is pretty fed up with illegal alien scumbags that come here to cause damage to this country… that’s right a—hole. You’re going to Cuba” (p146). On the next page Walker admits that what he is doing is illegal. All this setting aside of laws and morals to, what, find a fake diamond selling ring? The dialogue by the FBI agents and their actions are over the top and I never found myself rooting for them.
[STILL SPOILERS] Ditto the bank heist plot by the Butcher and his computer scientists. I looked it up and diamonds can be used in computers to speed up processing. So that part is fascinating. The use of scientists and the diamond material by the mafia boss to make a ton of money makes a ton of sense as well and the potential to use the new super computer to cause global cataclysm was intriguing but the Butcher never goes there. All he wants is money. The guy who has more money and unchallenged power than anyone in Russia wants only money and retirement. Huh? But why would he take a few billion dollars after a single heist, kill everyone, then move out of his safe zone to an island off the coast of America? Did it not cross his mind that the CIA or any other government agency for almost any Western country (or even Russia) would immediately take an interest in an international terrorist who happens to be on a boat with minimal defenses? It was a death sentence at best as soon as he left his country. It didn’t make sense to me.
[STILL MORE SPOILERS] Max’s story was the most intriguing but also serves to highlight how many of the characters in the book are caricatures. When Max starts running from the Butcher we start cheering for him. It’s easy to ignore the fact that he is a crook who was working for the mob and a murderer like the Butcher and focus on him as the little guy trying to escape. His capture seems inevitable when the Butcher sends his best man plus his two best bodyguards on the chase. I can’t stress enough how unsatisfying it was to see the ex-special forces thugs get gunned down by a single shot from a shotgun by a factory worker in the middle of the night. Why would they all be lined up at the door while breaching? Why wouldn’t they have taken out the guys in the room quickly (like we’d expect from Special Forces guys?) An ancient shotgun from across the room aimed at the door and fired once and all three are basically dead. End of tension. Everything after that is superfluous. We know no one is chasing Max even if he doesn’t. Even rooting for him seems a shallow victory as we know all along that he’s going to make a ton of money off his fake diamond – again, setting aside the fact that he is also a thief – and live happily ever after. But we are given no reason to care after that. [END SPOILERS]
I was a huge fan of Salkin’s Deep Black Sea. The writing was tight and the setting and plot created tension and made for a fun survival horror story. I read in the author’s note that this was the book that Salkin wrote first and then came back to after publishing seven others. I hate to provide negative feedback on what is surely a labor of love but it is my opinion after comparing the two most recently published novels that Salkin is a much better writer now than he was when he started this one. There are a bunch of plot holes, the story doesn’t seem to go together, and the characters aren’t well fleshed out.
I’m sorry but this one is a pass for me.
@ashertopia is the Managing Editor of BookGateway.com. He is an avid reader and a lifetime learner. His favorite genres include science fiction, fantasy, as well as theology and Christian living. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people.
This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.