Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Expendability Doctrine

Author: Patrick Mackeown
Publisher: BookScape
ISBN: 978-0-9554328-0-4

Keith Connors, a wealthy oil industry consultant, was a nasty brute. It’s no wonder that his wife, Hilary, wanted him dead. Before investigators can interrogate her, however, she leaves Britain, gathers belongings from her French home and heads out to assume a new identity in Libya.

Upon arriving in Libya, Hilary quickly loses control of her life. She witnesses a murder, then is arrested and incarcerated in a horrific prison. In the midst of local unrest, Hilary and several other prisoners manage to escape from the prison, steal a truck and safely make their way to Algeria.

In the meantime, investigators in Great Britain uncover disturbing details about Keith’s business dealings. Their discoveries lead them to reconsider what role, if any, Hilary may have played in his murder. It is only in the book’s final pages that one learns whether Keith’s murder was a crime of passion or a matter of expediency.

Notwithstanding the fact that it contains several intriguing elements, The Expendability Doctrine is a rather dry story. For one thing, it’s difficult to identify who is supposed to be the main character. Is it Hilary? Is it Inspector Hawthorne? Is it Keith? Neither these nor any other characters are sufficiently developed to engage the reader’s empathy, though Hawthorne comes closest to doing so. Keith is too unlovable and Hilary is too unfathomable to be of much interest.

For another thing, the connections between the two storylines, Hilary’s Libyan escapades and Hawthorne’s British sleuthing are unclear. The main questions that drive the story, of course, are, “who killed Keith Connors?” and “why did he/she/they kill him?” Obviously, Hawthorne needs to solve his case, which he does. And equally obviously, Hilary needs, or believes she needs, to escape arrest and prosecution. Yet the story ends without clarifying what happens to Hilary. Does she return to Britain? If so, is she arrested and tried? If not, why not? Does she wander the globe for the rest of her days? All of these possibilities are still open when the book ends. This is a major omission, because the question of Hilary’s guilt is precisely where the two storylines meet! Clarifying this connection is essential to resolving both storylines in a satisfactory manner.

Overall, The Expendability Doctrine is a moderately rewarding read. Mackeown has a good imagination and he handles the English language fairly well. With continued growth, he could be an author to watch in the future.

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