Welcome to Murder by the Book's blog about what we've read recently. You can find our website at www.mbtb.com.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Asset by Shane Kuhn

Simon & Schuster, 288 pages, $26

“The Asset” is an thriller. A shadowy evil is threatening to terminate the United States with extreme prejudice. The only one who can save us is Kennedy, an expert in airport security. Does Kennedy have a last name? It speaks to author Shane Kuhn’s plain, straightforward style that it seems irrelevant to dwell on the last names of characters who exist primarily for their function. Even those characters who have whole names distill to their “Cher”-like monikers immediately.

It’s misleading of me to imply that Kennedy has no history and is merely a contrivance to move the plot forward. Kuhn gives him a background, a motivation to do what he does and be the loner he is. (When a love interest -- whose one name is "Love" -- pops up, Kennedy easily moves into that state of being, so we know he’s not a complete loner.) But for the most part, Kennedy exists to move the plot forward, as do the other characters who slot themselves into the characters necessary to form an operations team, which is a bit of a cliché.

Where Kuhn escapes the cliché is in the story. He takes us behind the scenes of a sometimes clumsy TSA and a nasty version of Homeland Security, represented by a nasty agent, and a CIA in which one of the many hands can escape notice of the other hands, represented by an agent who co-opts Kennedy onto a hastily constructed team. And Kuhn’s fictional universe is interesting.

Kennedy is the only person who can install a piece of machinery into airport scanning machines that will help the CIA defeat criminal mastermind Lentz, who is planning something nefarious. Kennedy and his team run afoul of one setback (or traitorous act) after another, and that’s the story. Once again, it’s the fictional inside look at security organizations (however far-fetched) and the running of the machinery that provides a thin shield against acts of terrorism that provides the page-turning oomph.

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