A Chinese satellite is on a crash course with the Earth. it contains enough plutonium to eradicate a large city. And that’s the good news… Michael Chase is a 26 year old backpacker, a recent college grad, an amateur. He flew to Hong Kong to find his missing father. Four hours later, he’s running for his life. The Chinese Secret Police want him dead. And the one person who thinks is on his side, may want him dead too. If Michael is going to live, he’ll need to find a hidden piece of Nazi technology, lost since WWII. And he’ll have to do it before anyone else. Because if he doesn’t, a little plutonium is going to be the least of his problems…
Lethal Circuit has been comfortably resting in the Amazon Top 100 Technothrillers since its release in 2011, and has been described by critics as ‘following the traditions of Tom Clancy, Michael Crichter, and Robert Ludlum’ and also as being ‘the new junior Bond’. I was contacted by the author’s agent Orangeberry Marketing and offered an e-copy to review on the basis of my interest in crime fiction and thrillers, and happily accepted, expecting a fast paced an exciting new title to add to my ever-growing collection of favoured crime titles.
The plot of Lethal Circuit revolves around a bi-axial set of events, a see-saw of action and consequence of which our main man Michael Chase is heavily involved in and crucial to the outcome of. We are introduced to Michael whilst he is backpacking in China, near to the place where his father mysteriously went missing and was presumed dead just over 6 months earlier. Michael discovers via a meeting with some extremely unsavoury characters in a men’s bathroom that his dad may not be dead after-all and also may not be who he’s always maintained to be – one of the bosses of a leading American sportswear brand manufacturer. Indeed, it quickly turns out that Mr Chase Snr was in fact a senior CIA agent, tasked onto an investigation into locating some missing World War II Nazi aircraft technology, that is also of interest to several other secret service organisations and criminal gangs around East Asia.
Simultaneously, a satellite with the power to wipe out a very large area indeed is currently locked onto an uncontrollable collision course with the East Coast of the USA. Michael must find a way of stopping the satellite by finding the details of the missing aircraft technology, and along the way discover exactly who he father was and what happened to to him – including if he is still alive or not.
Promising, intriguing and compelling, the praiseworthy accolades unfortunately indicated rather more than what what I felt Lethal Circuit actually managed to deliver. As previously mentioned, I was expecting a gripping, exciting and fast paced tale full of twists, turns, shocks and surprises – and whilst what I read was unarguably ‘fast paced’, I felt the non-stop action to be at mostly completely unrealistic and unbelievable, and at many points too ‘easy’ or ‘obvious’, for example the ease at which our main protagonist often happens upon his enemies and their lairs, and the ability of his partner to almost psychically predict where he is at any given time and come to his rescue/aid.
We aren’t really introduced to any of the multiple characters in any great depth, and as each person has their own agenda and questionable allegiances, the first few chapters were incredibly hard to follow and relate to; not helped by the rather amateurish ‘stop and start’ method of narration employed by Guignard. Sentences felt unnaturally short and simple, were over-punctuated and often stated the obvious or sounded incredibly unrealistic.
I did find the ‘flashbacks’ to Michael and his father to be much better quality in comparison, and it was ultimately these that allowed me to connect with Michael as a character and enabled me to understand his motives enough so that I ‘rooted’ for him. In retrospect, these chapters were probably my favourite in the whole book. In addition to the flashbacks, the constant ‘flips’ between China and America made the plot extremely tangled and confusing to follow in terms of place and timeline, especially when every character seemed to be trying to double or triple cross each other, or only appeared once or twice. This tactic was probably employed purposely by the author to keep the reader guessing, but unfortunately due to the aforementioned poor standard of writing I found I simply didn’t care enough to try and keep track and second guess every character; I found myself paying more attention to the quality of how things were said rather than what was said.
In addition, much of the action felt rushed and crammed in; at just under 300 pages Lethal Circuit is a relatively short novel and in my opinion would have benefited from an extra 150-200 pages of more drawn out sequences and better character development, to make it more realistic and also to enable suspense – I never really felt scared for any of the characters, seeing as every cliffhanger got solved almost immediately after it occurred! Action thrillers do rely on fact pacing, but if aiming at this particular speed, the writing needs to be pretty much perfect with spot-on syntax, structure and dialogue, which I felt was sadly lacking in Lethal Circuit.
Overall, this novel felt very much like an beginner offering, and not nearly as complex or genius as similar themed works by authors such as Ian Fleming or Stieg Larsson. The story idea itself is a relatively strong one, and due praise must be given to Guignard for coming up with such a great sounding premise; I was only disappointed that I was distracted from the story by the poor quality of the narration and the overly abrupt pace of the action. In this case I felt that the reality didn’t live up to the potential, and I probably wouldn’t recommend this book to any long-lived fans of the crime/thriller genre or any frequent readers past pre-teen in age, as it reads a little too amateurish to engage lovers of complex fiction. Children or infrequent readers may enjoy it as a precursor to Bond or an introduction to thriller novels, but sadly I personally don’t believe it can compete with the standard of others of its kind on the market.
DISCLAIMER: *I accepted no payment for this article and only received a free copy of the book in exchange for a fair and honest review*