Frederick Brooke's Reviews > The 19th Element

The 19th Element by John L. Betcher
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's review
Apr 10, 2012

it was amazing
Read from April 07 to 10, 2012

Retired CIA agent James Becker lives in quiet Red Wing, Minnesota, where you can walk to work and to your favorite restaurants, thinking the enemies of the last 20 years and international terrorists can't catch up with him here. How wrong you can be! The good news is that when Al Queida does rear its head in Red Wing, Beck, as he is known, is ready for them.

This book has many strong points. The writing is crisp and clean, and gets right to the point without meandering constantly into philosophy and exposition, a weakness of many books in this genre. The main character, Beck, is likeable and his talents are impressive. He relies more on brains and common sense than fancy gadgets and brawn. What I liked most about 19th Element is that the characters seem like real people, from Beck himself and his wife, Beth, to their daughter Sarah, to the local police chief, Gunner Gunderson, with whom Beck has to negotiate breathing room as he investigates, to a number of others as well. The author has done a fine job sketching out just enough detail to make these characters breathe, and the dialogue is spot on.

What I also liked about The 19th Element is that I learned a ton about chemistry. The title refers to the element potassium, 19th on the periodic table. But we're not talking about bananas when it comes to Al Queida, as you might imagine. The author creates a plausible scenario for post 9-11 mayhem and destruction that should strike fear in any American heart. The tragedy of the meltdown in Fukushima, Japan makes the book even more topical, and from reading it I was able to understand better what happened there.

If you are looking for a tremendous international thriller with a likeable hero, look no further. I'll be downloading another book by this author soon.
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