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Book Review: The 19th Element by John L. Betcher

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The first thing that struck me as I read The 19th Element, the next James Becker thriller, was that my chemistry knowledge had not completely been lost, and I knew what element he was referring to in the title. And that element is very much the center to this tale of terrorism and sloughy bureaucracy.

The novel makes a very interesting point as we near the 10th anniversary of 9/11. It speculates that because there have not been any major attacks by al Queda, we are not as well protected as we are led to believe. Combined with changing technology of warfare, that has made us vulnerable once more.

The character Beck is clearly a worried man, then again that is what he does for a living. He discovers a plot to blow up a nuclear power station and create a Chernobyl-style disaster on an enlarged scale. Not only does he have to find out what a sleeper cell is up to, he also has to battle lazy and incompetent bureaucrats who think he is paranoid.

As with Betcher’s previous book the prose does not dally about. It moves quickly and I was able to read the novel in one afternoon. His minimalist approach to writing might not be for all, but it does make for a pacey read.

It can be seen as absolute antithesis to those weighty tomes that clog up the airport bookstores. This would make a perfect book to read on the plane, especially as airplanes feature in the novel.

Even more so than the last one this book screams to be made into a movie. A script would be easy to pluck from this novel.

I recommend both this release and the previous one. It is a fine summer read for your next few days off.

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