Debbie's World of Books
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The China Gambit by Allan Topol

March 18th, 2012 by Debbie's World of Books

Source: Received for review

Publication date: January 1, 2012

Publisher: Vantage Press

I give this book 3 out of 5 stars

Summary from In Canada, Francesca, a young American reporter, is brutally murdered to stop her from publishing an explosive story. She has learned that Chinese General Zhou has orchestrated a conspiracy with Iran to stop the flow of imported oil to the United States. General Zhou’s goal: To leapfrog China over the United States for world economic and military supremacy. And the ruthless General will do anything to accomplish that goal. Craig Page—a daring and resourceful former CIA agent, now fighting terrorism in Europe—is determined to find out who killed his daughter, Francesca. Joined by the gutsy Elizabeth Crowder, Francesca’s editor, Craig peels back the conspiracy layer by layer, ultimately learning that General Zhou has a partner in the scheming CIA director, Kirby, who forced Craig out of the Agency.The action moves from Canada to Tehran, Beijing and Washington, and finally to Aspen, with Craig and Elizabeth narrowly escaping repeated attacks in their attempt to prevent a catastrophe for the United States. It’s exciting and exceedingly timely, with attention focused now on China’s growing strength and power in the world. At the same time, Craig must bury his personal loss, as he confronts his adversaries trying to kill him.

I enjoy a good conspiracy theory/action/adventure story and I have especially been enjoying the books involving the struggle between the US and China for world dominance.  It’s a situation that is so feasible it is scary to imagine that situations like these could really take lace and that is what makes reading the books that much more enjoyable.

The story line of The China Gambit was interesting and it makes you wonder just how far will people go get ahead of everyone else.  This book is pretty much filled with non-stop action as Craig and Elizabeth criss-cross across the world trying to find Francesca’s murderer and unravel the plans she was killed to keep secret.

 In a way there was almost too much action as everything they go through and the sheer luck Craig and Francesca have when escaping impossible situations makes the story feel too over the top.  It began to take away from any admiration of Craig’s skill as a former CIA agent and made it feel like the only reason Craig has survived and uncovered so many plots against the US is because of dumb luck.  This along with the fact that for a former hot-shot CIA agent Craig seems to lack the self-defense skills I was expecting (at one point he gets shot in a situation that had me thinking, “really?! You couldn’t take that guy out without getting shot?” and he also doesn’t seem to think about future strategic actions.  For instance, at one point one of the bad guys plans on ambushing him on a return flight home and Craig doesn’t seem to even consider this situation until someone else takes the initiative to point it out.  This happens multiple times and it made me think if he was one of their best I’d hate to see their worst.  Craig also came across as a contradiction of a true gentleman who would treat women with respect and courtesy mixed with a crude guy who at one point comments “We’ll use your pussy as bait” to catch one of the bad guys and at another point is so focused on acting in a macho, stupid manner that he’s ready to manhandle Elizabeth to get his way.  With these little quirks to his personality it made it even harder to admire his character despite the fact that he’s just lost his only daughter.

Elizabeth’s character also bothered me because it was constantly pointed out how strong a female she was and how she could handle everything because she was once an embedded reporter in the Middle East.  Yes, in car chases and shoot outs she’s a great shot but when it came down to facing other dangerous situations she had near meltdowns or just made obviously stupid decisions and I found it hard to see what added value she provided.

And then don’t even get me started on the romance that was thrown into the story.  It was so random and served no real purpose that I had to wonder why it was even included.  At one point after being chased for days, several murder attempts on her and while trying to figure out what is this huge plan that threatens the US Elizabeth has a random thought about how badly she wants to have sex with Craig and how wet she is for him.  There was no lead up to a growing attraction between the two or even that it was the adrenaline of their situation stirring up these feelings.  Instead it felt like Topol suddenly thought “doh, I should have a romance included and tossed in these extra scenes.”  This happens at several points with various sex scenes that didn’t feel appropriate and jarred the flow of the story.

Despite all this the basis of the plot was interesting and there is a twist at the end I did not see coming.  This book would have been much more enjoyable if I had gone in with the mindset that I had to set aside any sense of reality and just go with the flow of some absurdly convenient luck.

If you want to check out what other’s had to say here are some thoughts of those who enjoyed the book much more than I did:

Posted in 3 Star Books, Action, Books, Mystery, Thriller/Suspense

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