The Bookworm is the sobriquet of Larissa Mendelova Klimt, a professor of geopolitics. Think Jared Diamond and “Guns, Germs, Steel.” She’s smart, wicked smart, she even beat Kasparov at chess, though she modestly reminds people that he was playing several simultaneously. She’s also incredibly beautiful, because, after all, she is the heroine in this thriller.
So it begins, as any good thriller should, in several places at once. In Nazi Germany, in Alaska, and in Moscow. We have disparate characters doing their separate things, Lara reading documents from Hitler’s bunker in the Archives, her brother Lev measuring crude oil in Alaska, and some poor sod finding a long-buried body in London. Of course, it all comes together, that’s the point. Unfortunately for us, it all comes together too quickly and too easily with Lara being handed a case of old tapes of Noel Coward recounting his contribution to the war effort to the last detail. Then Lara gets the URL of a vodcast outlining a conspiracy between the US and Russian president. At long last, we know why Putin intervened in the election.
There’s not much suspense in The Bookworm despite its genre. This is unfortunate. Mitch Silver dreamed up two rather clever conspiracies, but rather than letting them be revealed bit by bit as our heroine and her brother peel back the clues, they are simply narrated by a couple of the conspirators. There’s no detecting, just listening. The only question is who will survive to the last page. That makes for very little suspense since with rare exceptions the important characters always do.
Good suspense does not tell us the conspiracy, it has us follow step by step as it is slowly revealed. It is never revealed in one fell swoop complete with visual aids and slides as in this book. That was just weird. It really seemed a waste of an excellent character, because I liked Lara quite a bit. There’s a simply bizarre incident with her friend Pavel. His conclusions and his subsequent actions make no sense. I guess Silver wanted to have a moment of personal jeopardy, but there were better choices than Pavel for that.
Since the book description tells us she reconciles with her husband before we even read it, it would be nice to see why, because as far as I can tell there is no reason whatsoever for that to happen. One minute he’s packing up to move out with her roommate whom he just slept with and the next they’re walking off into the sunset. Weird. My favorite part of the book is the wish fulfillment, panicked pratfalls of the Trump and Putin characters when they panic at a rally. It almost makes the book worthwhile. I should stop here, the more I think about it, the less I like it.
I received a copy of The Bookworm from the publisher through NetGalley.