Book Review: Aiken in Check
Reviewed by Manik Chaturmutha
A hair-raising tale of treason, deception, and undercover operations
Aiken in Check by Michael Frost Beckner takes the reader on a wild ride through undercover intelligence operations and secret escape missions. It has a circuitous narrative that takes time to get used to but constantly arouses the reader’s curiosity.
The story begins in Cuba, under the fierce communist regime of Fidel Castro. CIA spy Nina Estrada has been captured by the Cuban authorities. Russell Aiken is forced to betray America to rescue her from a terrible fate. As Aiken writes his confession, he meditates on a series of past events, spanning the lives and operations of Nathan Muir, Tom Bishop, and the genesis of operation HOUNDFOX and TIME MACHINE.
Silas Kingston, head of counter-intelligence, is responsible for manipulating the Muir-Bishop relationship for his vested interests, and he would not hesitate to do the same again. But too much is at stake this time, and Aiken must not let it happen again.
As part of the Aiken Trilogy, this novel provides elaborate explanations and background details of several incidents mentioned in the series’ previous books. The reader gets to know precisely how Elizabeth Hadley was rescued from China. We also get to know the exact way in which Charlie March’s assassination was carried out. It helps to satisfy this readerly curiosity regarding these occurrences.
The author makes several thought-provoking observations about human nature in this one. This one, in particular, gives us a fresh perspective on what is reasonable, heroic, and cowardly.
“We hear that the reasonable man adapts himself to the world, while the unreasonable one keeps at the world with a hammer and sickle—strike that, crowbar— attempting to force it to adapt to himself. The coward is too quick to adapt; the hero has no time to adapt; and the traitor ends up adapting purely for the sake of time.”
The story also features some powerful female characters such as Nina, Elizabeth Hadley, Amy Kim, and Linda P Morse. Nina’s courage, Linda’s brilliance, Amy’s presence of mind and Elizabeth’s compassion are all genuinely inspiring. Although a minor character, Nina’s mother even displays an admirable strength of character.
The narrative is enriched with several real-life incidents, such as the political situation in Cuba under Fidel Castro and the Vietnam War. The conclusion, all the more important in a series, is very satisfying, leaving us with a sense of joy. It clarifies the mysteries and suspense and provides a sense of closure to the trilogy.
The narrative is punctuated by several flashbacks. The transition into these flashbacks can be quite abrupt and may take some time for the reader to understand.
Despite the break in the flow of the narrative, this plot is fascinating and action-packed. The novel piques our curiosity and holds it. Readers in search of an adrenaline blast will definitely enjoy this book.
Genre: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense / Spy & Espionage
Print Length: 514 pages
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