Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Bricklayer by Noah Boyd

The Bricklayer
by Noah Boyd

As I mentioned when I posted the recent contest, I was contacted and asked if I would review a new novel called The Bricklayer, by Noah Boyd. I've never officially reviewed a book before, but since the book promised an in-depth look at the workings of the FBI (and a couple of free copies to share around) I thought it would be a great way to fill in some of the hiatus time here on the blog.

I finished the novel in about 3 days as my son crawled around me exploring, gnawed toys on the couch next to me, or attempted (once successfully) to rip pages out of the book. Excuse me, page 53, but you did look rather tasty. If you have the time for one straight sitting you could easily finish the nearly 400 page book in one lazy afternoon.

When it comes to introducing characters, Noah Boyd reminds me of Mary Higgins Clark. Actually, the entire book reminds me of her style in some ways. Many characters are starkly introduced at the beginnings of chapters. You get his or her name and then you jump right into the action. The characters themselves are all very snappy in dialog and not given to emotional depth. It is a macho book, with macho interactions. That is actually one of my dislikes, to a point. It sometimes feels like every character, male or female, is being played by a guy.

But I don't want to be too hard on Mr. Boyd for that because characterization is not the point of the book. This is an action book, written by an FBI agent. Mooshy ewwy-gooey is not why you've picked it up. The only character that matters is the hero, Steve Vail, and I find he has plenty of depth and interesting layers. He is the solid American hero who's flaws are more admirable than detrimental. He's the smartest man, the biggest man, the most attractive man, the manliest man. He's not the most successful man, by societal standards, but he has good reasons for everything he does.

Vail is matched only by the main female of the book, Kate Bannon. She is as strong as Steve, even though she doesn't always believe the strength exists within herself. It is not surprising to see attraction spring up between them, though I find the dialog a bit too 'smart', to perfect, too masculine. I wonder, however, if that is the writing or the FBI/law enforcement culture. I honestly don't know.

When it comes to the main aspect of The Bricklayer I was interested in - the FBI insights - I was not at all disappointed! Mr. Boyd has taken his knowledge and crafted a story that lays countless procedures, patterns, protocols, and cultural norms within the FBI bare. He picks apart each, exposing weaknesses that cost the bureau, and individuals, dearly. You get to see the lingo and acronyms. You learn about the hierarchy and chain of command. You see how operations are conducted in the field. You get a bit of tech and a whole lot of muscle. You learn about the thinking of the organization vs. the reasoning of the individual. Every new plot point is not just an advancement of the story, it is a new opportunity to show you something you didn't know before. The book and the story within have a singular purpose: to make what is within the FBI known, to lay it bear, to show why (in some ways) it should be torn down and rebuilt.

It is a great ride. If you love non-stop action, love macho heroes, love a good who-dun-it puzzle... then you will love this book. Just don't expect a lot of emotional interludes. There are none. It's a straight forward action movie in 390 pages... with a bright orange and gray cover guaranteed to attract any baby in the room :)


spezzella said...

Sounds interesting. I usually prefer a little bit of emotion in what I read, but I am intrigued by the fact that the author works for the FBI.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review! I'm fascinated by the FBI procedure hook and will buy it based on your review.

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