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Onyx reviews: The Rules of Silence by David Lindsey

Austin writer David Lindsey returns to a more conventional story than his previous outing, Animosity, which had an ending that must have been the subject of lengthy debates at his publisher's editorial department. However, there are similarities between the two books. In both, the protagonist's secure life is suddenly turned upside down by some outside force.

Titus Cain is a self-made millionaire and the owner of a thriving software company located in the Hill Country of Texas. His idyllic world is tipped off its axis when he becomes the target of a South American extortionist who kidnaps Cain without sequestering him.

"I am going to explain to you how your life has changed," the man tells him. If Cain doesn't follow the terrorist's instructions exactly and transfer $64 million to various bank accounts on a very tight schedule, people around Cain are going to start dying. Cain has to unload the money in a way that raises no suspicions without haggling or negotiating. If he tells the FBI, people will die. As many and at whatever time the man decides he wants to kill them.

Cain isn't without resources, though, and his network puts him in touch with Garcia Burden, a man with experience in similar types of schemes, although Burden admits that nothing on this scale has ever been attempted on American soil before. Cain's persecutor, a professional kidnapper named Luquin, has the advantage of time—he's been planning this operation for months and Burden must get up to speed in a day or two.

Luquin is completely amoral. He kills to make a point. When a close friend of Cain's dies in an apparent accident Luquin arranged, Cain understands the depths of his trouble.

Thus begins a caper in which the good guys try to take revenge for what's being done to Cain. The difference with The Rules of Silence is that the counter-plan is running concurrently with the original crime and the balancing act Cain and Burden must carry out is to prevent Luquin from realizing that Cain is doing something to fight back.

The situation doesn't give Lindsey much time to delve deeply into characterization. The entire novel takes place over a four-day period and most of it is done with Cain and his colleagues under relentless stress. Cain and his wife have the obligatory second thoughts that require Burden to make time to explain the hopelessness of the situation if they don't take drastic measures to get Luquin before he vanishes with the money.

Burden's own motives aren't obvious through most of the book, but what is clear is that he knows a lot more than he says. He seems intimately familiar with Luquin and his way of handling the terrorist is unorthodox. He would prefer that no one ever knows anything happened. If people in Luquin's network know he's been compromised, they will go underground and years of intelligence will be rendered useless.

Lindsey ups the ante by connecting Luquin with the types of Middle-Eastern terrorists who are the traditional enemies of the state these days. The book's only weakness is that once Burden's plan goes into motion, there's little room for surprises. The scheme does start to come apart in the closing pages—and Lindsey has established in previous books that he's not averse to a pessimistic ending—but this time he plays it safe. It's a thrilling adventure, but one that doesn't exactly pay off at the level of expectation set up by the clever premise.

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