Sunday, December 17, 2017

Book Review: Untangling the Black Web by T.F. Jacobs

A Lack of Realism Weakens this ‘Hot-Button’ Novel

In just about every poll about Americans’ top concerns, you’ll find healthcare number one or two.  So, a book about a man taking on a “corrupt medical system” after his young wife dies is bound to catch attention.  It got mine.

The book starts well, with charged scenes involving the death of David Higgin’s wife.  And from there, the story moves at a good clip.  After vowing revenge at her funeral, David forms his team and goes after American True Care, one of two, big healthcare insurers in the United States.  The action scenes are particularly well-done, as you can often feel the protagonist’s pounding heart and sweaty palms.  David’s character is also well developed, as the judgmental, self-centered lawyer who throws ethics to the wind in the pursuit of justice.  At the end, there is a redemption scene, of sorts, in which he confesses his excesses; unfortunately, his rebirth seems superficial.  For example, throughout the book, David plays the ‘justice for his wife’ card often – appropriately so, given her tragic death.  But when he expresses romantic interest in another woman in the final scenes, claiming she is actually more his type than his wife had ever been, it seems unlikely he has learned anything about himself.

But while less than admirable characters are sometimes intentional, the loss of tension due to a lack of realism in the plot of a thriller is not.  Regrettably, the book often suffers this problem.  For example, consider the surgeon who makes ‘rookie mistakes’ in order to re-treat and re-charge his patients, and ask yourself, is it possible he could do this more than once or twice?  How could he afford the malpractice insurance?  Or look at the break-in and theft inside the House Majority Whip’s personal office – surely no one is this lax with evidence of criminality and treason.  And why was there no media frenzy or public backlash when the whip was exposed for extorting votes by threatening a Congresswoman with a sex scandal?  Overall, I spent too much time wondering why cause and effect had been suspended, and too little time worrying about the fate of David and his colleagues.

In short, Untangling the Black Web ends up being a collection of well-written, emotional and action scenes on one of American’s pressing concerns.  Unfortunately, their effect is diluted because they’re difficult to believe.

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