North and south, east and west, with the global population soaring, the common denominator is fear. Not of acts of nature or pandemics, but of each other. The saying that guns don’t kill people, people kill people, is simplistic. People kill people with guns. With knives, too, and bombs, and poison, and garrottes.

EDGE: Pictured with author Jeffery Deaver, available from all good bookshops for 495 baht.

Though we put out the goodwill to all men at Christmas, the rest of the year we are paranoid. We know, reinforced by books and films, that there are dangerous men and women out there who kill deliberately or accidentally. Psychopaths, hitmen, poor drivers, those acting in the name of family honour, crimes of passion, drive-by shooters, religious intolerance, wars, arson.

Turning to the criminal justice system doesn’t necessarily provide the assistance needed, so more than a few seek security further afield. Bodyguards for those who can afford them _ threatening harm to those they protect is worth your life. It’s what the world’s coming to, if you want to live long enough to enjoy your grandchildren. In Edge, the protagonist is a bodyguard, villain and murderer.

Having written 30 psychological thrillers to date, Jeffrey Deaver is best known for Lincoln Rhyme, a quadraplegic New York detective. His literary creation this time around is a detective in Washington, DC. Agent Corte is with SPD, the Strategic Protection Department.

Fellow detective Ryan Kessler has been targeted by perp Henry Loving, and with his family is going into the witness protection programme until he can testify. It’s up to Corte to ensure that they get to a safe house in one piece.

Though a veteran on the force, Corte learns that in Loving he has a formidable opponent he can’t outsmart.

Deaver compares their moves and counter-moves to a chess match _ opening, middle game, end game. Corte is charmed by the daughters, almost forgetting his wife of 15 years and two sons. Loving has a mole in the department; the house they are headed for is compromised. So Corte drives them to another, his nemesis in hot pursuit.

An FBI special agent joins Corte, but they are outnumbered by Loving’s gang of four. In the penultimate chapter climax, Loving has an arsenal at his disposal, including stun-grenades and phosphorous grenades. Though wounded, the personae are still able to go at it hand-to-hand. It’s touch and go, but Deaver’s fans know he doesn’t kill off his heroes.

What with kidnappings and assassinations, bodyguards are in the most promising profession whatever state the economy is in. This is certainly a bloodthirsty book, but at least the bodies that pile up are the miscreants. Or so the author indicates.

Exciting nonsense

What holy books have in common is that they challenge the intellect, especially when making pronouncements to those He has chosen to carry them out. Or when impossible prayers are answered in an impossible way. Those objecting that these things couldn’t have happened, that the chroniclers must be in error, are told to believe.

Believe the impossible? Just so. Believe that He is all powerful and can make the impossible possible. Still, not everybody can make that leap of faith. As Galileo told the Inquisition, why do we have minds if not to reason; to decide what makes sense and what doesn’t. A case in point is the fall of Jericho as described in the Old Testament.

Two things stand out in that account _ Joshua’s prayer that the light of day continue, which He granted by stopping the rotation of the Earth so that the sun did not set, and the lesser miracle that the blaring of Israelite trumpets brought down the walls of the city.

Clearly wrestling with these unlikelihoods, American author Thomas Greanias penned a novel with a different scenario, but just as implausible.

Following in the footsteps of Mark Twain and HG Wells, he has a contemporary man go back in time three-and-a-half millennia to that city. The Promised War attempts to tie past and present together with maps, frequent references to the Promised Land and the family tree of one of the characters.

The time-travelling protagonist is Sam Deker, an Israeli counter-terrorism agent. How he makes the round trip is contrived, as are the contents of his luggage, which would never have made it through airport security. A load of C4 no less. Which, after a succession of narrow escapes, has the walls tumbling down. In command of the attacking Israelite army is General Bin-Nun. Head of the defending Palestinian forces is General Hamas.

Greanias is another of those authors who hates killing off a hero. Despite being hit by arrows, tortured while captured, stabbed and gouged by a spear, he’s off and running. Like Deker, the villain has nine lives. Nothing less than a cupola falling on his head slows him down. While delivering a city, Deker finds time to romance a woman, uncover a spy and discover the foe’s secret weapon of mass destruction.

The Promised War is exciting and nonsensical. This reviewer would have preferred that this book, which doesn’t qualify as historical fiction, had made a serious effort to explain the capture of Jericho. The consequences of the planet coming to a sudden stop would have sent everything on it flying into space.n’

The Promised War’ is available from all good bookshops for 260 baht.


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About the author

Writer: Bernard Trink
Position: Freelance Writer