In Fault Line, Eisler introduces the character of Ben Treven, a special-ops soldier specializing in assassination. Gung-ho to the core, and convinced that he and the rest of his team are doing the work necessary to keep you and I safe, he does what it takes to do his job. Highly trained, he lives the life of a predator, always wary of traps, and focused on the job at hand.

Ben has an estranged brother, Alex, a patent attorney in Silican Valley, currently working with a software developer who has an encryption application that he thinks will revolutionize the security industry. When the developer is killed in an apparent drug deal gone wrong, and the patent office official that Alex had been corresponding with dies of an apparent heart attack, Alex gets worried. The developer didn’t seem like the kind of person who could be a drug dealer, and the patent office analyst was young and healty. So Alex emails his brother for help.

Naturally there is also a love interest, in the form of the beautiful and talented Sarah Hosseini, a technical analyst in Alex’s law firm. The novel takes the trio through a series of harrowing experiences as they fend off assassins and find out why anyone would be interested enough in the software to kill for it.

I can’t say this is a top-rank adventure thriller, but it does keep your interest throughout. My initial interest in the book was that it is written by someone who is not himself a cheerleader for US imperialism, endless war, and so on. In fact, he is pretty much in the Greenwald camp - have a look at his blog at to see what I mean. This appeals to me, since I am also in the Greenwald camp. According to his official bio, he worked in CIA ops for three years, but is highly critical of the CIA’s rendition program and torture. Imagine that! Someone can work for the surveillance state, and later believe that we should continue to live under the rule of law. Very refreshing. It must drive his former masters a bit mad.

My main criticism of the book is that much of the character exposition takes place by way of internal monologue, alternating between Ben and Alex. It just doesn’t quite work. But Eisler had a problem: Ben is taciturn and solitary in the extreme, so trying to reveal character through dialogue would have been next to impossible. He would have had to become conveniently loquacious while, for example, sitting in an Istanbul hotel room waiting for his quarry. Still, I think a third-party narrator might have been a better approach.

Fortunately, the plot and the action kick in soon enough and often enough to distract from the rough edges, and the result is an exciting read.



Book cover

Metadata Info

  • Title: Fault Line (Ben Treven, #1)
  • Author: Barry Eisler
  • Published: 2009
  • ISBN: ****
  • Buy: Amazon search
  • Check out: Seattle library
  • Rating: 3.0 stars