Concentration Required

I have this acquaintance (I’d call her a friend, but I think that’s slightly overstating) that is obsessed with puzzles.  She has an entire room in her home dedicated to them.  She has the roll up mat meant for easy travel and the finishing spray to ensure that her completed beauties remain intact and full of glory.  She frames them and hangs them on the wall. Like I said…she is obsessed. So one day I asked her, “What is it about puzzles that you love so much?” Her response (much like her puzzles) was incredibly drawn out and detailed, so I’ll spare you the exact details, but the overall conclusion was that she “loved to see chaos come together.” Eloquent…is it not? That the entire reason for her hours of mindless rearranging was to add order where there once was none.

Now, I’m still not a fan of puzzles.  I’ll do one every five or six years, but the thought of it taking over my kitchen table for a month while I try to squeeze in a new part every four or five days makes my skin crawl.  Instead, I prefer the scattered chaos of books, and this week it was Mark Chisnell’s historical thriller “The Fulcrum Files.”

“The young Ben Clayton was one of Britain’s brightest boxing prospects, until the day he slammed a left hook into a fragile chin. Sickened by the consequences he turned away from the ring, found solace in the arms of the beautiful Lucy Kirk and looked for new challenges.

On the 7th March 1936, after almost two decades of peace in Europe, Hitler ordered the German Army back into the Rhineland. It was a direct challenge to Britain and France. Still unnerved by the toll of the Great War, the politicians dithered. The French Army stayed in its barracks, while the aristocratic British elite looked on from their country retreats. 

History teetered on a knife edge, but the spymasters were busy.

Just one man could make the difference between war and peace, victory or defeat. And that man was Ben Clayton. Thrown into the maelstrom of plot and counter-plot, into a world of murder, spies and traitors, Ben must battle not just to survive, but to protect all that he loves and holds most dear.”

If I was to tell you that I liked this book right out of the box, I’d be lying.  It’s quite the opposite in fact. I wasn’t happy with it at all.  While I can knock most books out in a few hours (or at the very most a day) it took me more than two weeks to gulp down Chisnell’s 407 page throwback to the 30′s.  Why? Because it read like a 10k piece puzzle that (until 50%) was nothing but scattered plot points and confusing references.  Was it a book about boats? (Which we know -in no small part to Mark’s book “The Defector”- he is well versed in.) Was it about politics? Spies? War? There were so many people with so many thoughts floating around that the significance of them all was lost on me. (Who knows…maybe I’m just slow.) Was the writing “bad?” Of course not. Chisnell is nothing if not well spoken. It was just a tremendous amount of information to take in.

That said (and puzzle references aside. Kinda.) Once the “course” of the book was finally set, I was hooked.  Just when I thought I couldn’t take it anymore this amazing, fast paced story emerged before my very eyes and I couldn’t put it down.  All those crazy distracting (off color) pieces finally came together and made sense! The characters (Ben and Anna mostly – which is impressive considering Anna wasn’t a lead in this story) evolved into two very full bodied characters that exhibited qualities only those with first hand knowledge of the pain of the era could muster, and they did so with such causal dialogue that it didn’t feel forced but matter of fact. Add to that the range of action this duo (well…all the characters actually) was forced to navigate through and what you have is just another shining example of why Chisnell is an indie name to keep your eyes on.

I will go on record as saying this isn’t the “easiest” read on the planet, it is chock-full of twists, turns and espionage, so if you are a person that likes to read for the frivolous enjoyment of it, you might want to steer clear.  ”The Fulcrum Files” takes focus, and more importantly a love of history to enjoy. But if you are a person that loves a good challenge when it comes to their literature. Go ahead…it might just surprise you too.

Happy reading my fellow Kindle-ites and remember: When the world says, “Give up,” Hope whispers, “Try it one more time.” Sometimes you just need to stick with it to see if it goes anywhere.

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(4/5)



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