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Inside Out

Barry Eisler
In Print
Ballantine Books (2010)

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This entry created 3 November 2012. Last revised on 5 September 2016.

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Inside Out

a novel

Rating: gold star gold star gold star gold star no star no star no star no star no star no star (4.00)

345 pages.

This is the middle book of a trilogy involving Ben Treven, a military assassin, and his boss, Hort. The first book is Fault Line; the last book is The Detachment. Not knowing this was a trilogy, I read the last book first - which definitely spoils the outcome of the second book.

At the end of the first novel, Ben Treven has saved his brother's life, started a romance with an Iranian-American lawyer, and been betrayed by his military unit and his boss, Hort. Shaken up, questioning his values, he decides to reunite with his ex-wife and daughter in the Philippines... only to end up in a Manila jail after killing a man in a bar fight.

At this point, Hort appears with an offer Ben can't refuse - rescue from jail, if he'll return to work. The job: track down a dead man, now a suspect in an extortion attempt against the U.S. government. Except that Larison, if he's alive, is the "angel of death," a formidable killer and a veteran of the same secret military unit to which Ben belongs.

Ben soon finds himself traveling from Florida to Central America and Washington D.C., dueling with FBI and CIA agents (who have very different ideas of how to handle this crisis), uncovering Larison's secrets while simultaneously learning more than he ever suspected about the inner workings of American government.

From an author that I am a major fan of, this is one of his lesser works. Ben Treven, an assassin with anger problems and emotional baggage from a stressful youth, is just not that interesting. The FBI agent, Paula, is smarter and gets the best dialogue; Larison, the veteran assassin with mental issues and a secret life, gets all the best action scenes. Even Hort, who plays a major role in the trilogy, lacks interest for me - not enough personality, too many speeches.

The other problem with this book is that the author seems to be pressing an agenda. Although the author goes out of his way not to mention specific politicians, the story is clearly set during the early years of the Obama administration, and in his effort to base the plot on actual events (and then build on that framework), this has the effect of implicating real people for the crimes revealed in this fictional story. As the author also provides a bibliography with more information about the events used as a basis for this story, one is left wondering if the author is just telling a story, or seriously proposing that an American oligarchy, independent of political parties, runs the country and engages in torture, assassination, and other crimes in the interest of national security.

Nevertheless, the plotting is interesting, with a few surprises. The action scenes are well done.

Because of the nature of the story, there is a good deal of violence - both in close combat and gunfights. There is also some romance (both straight and gay), including one major sexual scene.

This is one of Eisler's lesser novels, and not one I can recommend.

Reviewed by Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian.