The Tenth Circle by Jon Land
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Years ago there was an ad on television for toothpaste that assured people using this brand that this product offered more than other products in this category, because their brand had MFP, plus they also had IPS. Well, with such recent cavity busting technology in its pocket, why buy anything else? Turns out MFP wasn't some complicated scientific jargon; the letters stood for: More Fluoride Protection. And the IPS? That's simply Invisible Protective Shield. I don't know whatever happened to MFP. At some point a catchier jingle or new code for fabulous toothpaste must have replaced it. What I do know for sure is that IPS lives on in **The Tenth Circle** by Jon Land, and Blaine McCracken is just loaded with it. How else could he possibly achieve all the hair-raising, death-defying, downright improbable stunts he pulls off in almost every chapter.
I read another thriller a while ago, not by Jon Land, in which the hero was handicapped. He was confined to a wheelchair which he maneuvered the old fashioned way - with elbow grease and well developed pecs. At one point in the novel, he gave chase to a villain, while in his self propelled wheelchair, down the middle of a one way street in which he was going the wrong way, through traffic, while aiming and shooting a gun to stop the bad guys. He had nothing on Blaine McCracken. **The Tenth Circle** had to be written with tongue firmly implanted in cheek, because no mere mortal could accomplish just one of McC's well-timed, hopelessly contrived, and truly hilarious stunts. But isn't that exactly what makes **The Tenth Circle** so much fun to read? And lovers of the thriller novels want their heroes to be invincible because we can't have the guy or gal wuss out and die on us before the huge, spectacular finish. In this thriller it isn't just McC who is invincible either. Everyone associated within his select group of here-I-come-to-save-the-day posse has some element of IPS built right into their genetic history. Because, this kind of stuff cannot be learned or taught. It has to be present at birth and then become finely honed throughout various and sundry adventures. Jon Land knows exactly how to give us all more than a little taste test of gourmet thrillerisms. Just when I thought he couldn't pull off yet another miraculous save, and these things start at the very beginning of the book, so there's no waiting around for it, McC or Indian or Captain Seven, or Zarrin (who isn't even supposed to be on our side) manage to crush the opposition in some creative, innovative way.
My very favorite character in this novel is H J Belgrade. He's a retired member of the military living in the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Washington, DC, and he's the only person McC trusts in the city. HJ is a touch on the odd side. he spends part of his day outside feeding non-existent flocks of pigeons, and he keeps a well ordered daily schedule that includes singing The Wheels Go Round And Round at specific times during the day. He has spent considerable time and effort giving the impression that he's hopelessly senile, when in fact he's no such thing. Or is he? There is a scene that takes place in the AFRH that is one of the funniest, most satisfying scenes I've ever read. This particular event is more than worth the price of the book and the time it takes to read it. I read it over again at least 4 times, and I will probably go back and reread it because it was so well done. This book had several scenes that stood out for me like that one did; that one just happens to be the most memorable one I noticed. Besides that, I thought it was perfect that Land gave this shout out to retired members of the military.
And then there are the villains of the piece. Reverend Jeremiah Rule is not simply your basic bad guy. He is vile, disgusting, a disgrace to religion and the whole human race. As more and more about him is revealed, the loathing for him builds and builds. The Tenth Circle is his concept, and he works very hard to see it through to conclusion. Of course we never expect he will pull off this dastardly plan, but for many pages it appears to be a distinct possibility. If not for that IPS, the United States would be toast. There were a few times I thought Land was actually trying to work up some sympathy for Rule because of the life he'd endured, but there's no way to build any redeeming qualities for someone as evil as this. The government villains are slightly less repugnant albeit nasty, mean-spirited, and vicious, but it's pretty much Reverend Rule's show to run from the outset.
I don't think it's a spoiler to reveal that there s no romantic storyline in **The Tenth Circle**, and that's a plus. When one is busy saving the world, it's just not possible to get involved with bodice ripping and sweaty sheets. Instead Land gives his readers a historic backstory that is fascinating on its own. There's a whole colony of settlers in the New World that disappears, an abandoned ship with missing cargo, Greek pirates, and even Napoleon thrown in for good measure. It all works together to give the story the credibility it loses with McC's behavior. I vaguely remember reading about the disappearing colony before, but what I didn't remember was the explanation that resolved it. If, in fact, it ever was resolved. What I do know is that Land gives a plausible explanation for the various events tied together by a small settlement in North Carolina in 1590.
For people who love thrillers, this book is perfect because it fits the criteria we expect from this genre. But there's also room for those who may not be hardcore suspense lovers, but merely enjoy the escapism this kind of story provides. Land says this is 11th novel featuring Blaine McCracken, and because there are a variety of continuing characters throughout his books, I'm considering reading at least a few of the others to see how those people got to where they were in the current book. For anyone who may need a last minute holiday gift for a thriller lover on the to-buy-for list, consider **The Tenth Circle**.
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I received an ARC from Net Galley in return for an honest review.