I wanted to like this book: a mystery, linked to Einstein and cold war conspiracies, set in my adopted country, Switzerland and written by a fellow ex-pat. The book has a killer title. I enjoyed the Einstein quotes that start every chapter. I thought Zurich was well described and I admired the skill with which the various fight scenes were delivered. The plot was both ingenious and novel.
My problem was that I couldn’t bring myself to like (or even begin to understand) the main character. Our hero is an American Christian (he original came to Europe on a Mission for his Church) who now works as a “contractor” for the CIA. He honestly believes that his country’s behaviour since the end of World War Two has shown that is should be trusted by the rest of the world. He sees himself as a cowboy with a code who doesn’t smoke, swear, work on Sunday, fornicate (even with women he is falling in love with), or kill his adversaries unless they leave him no choice (or, it subsequently turns out, unless they get him very mad).
Our hero gets mad a lot. He’s a very large, very strong man whose weapon of choice is a hammer that he has named Freya. He likes to rescue damsels in distress even while he is thinking less of them because they smoke, wear a nose ring and have a spider-web tattoo.
There is a lot of violence in this book, many of our hero’s adversaries end up in hospital; the ones that really piss him off end up dead. Our hero experiences remorse each time he hurts someone. Then he goes out and does it again with great efficiency.
I couldn’t make up my mind whether I was reading a mystery written for the American Christian Right who have never left the USA or whether I was being presented with a compelling (and chilling) insight into a completely alien world view.
Either way, I found that I wasn’t cheering for our hero in the way I knew I should be. There is a torture scene where things get real and rather nasty. I felt for him then. I would feel for anybody in that situation. I also realized that I dreaded the person he would become if he somehow managed to escape.
The book is set up for a sequel. I hope that it gets published. I’d like to know what happens next and I’d like a second chance to see what it is that I’m missing about this character that others find so appealing.
If your criteria for a book is that it has no swearing, no sex, and a clean-cut hero with a heart of gold, and a hammer of steel, that he uses to protect the heroine while trying to save the world, then you’re in for an enjoyable read.