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THE RARE EARTH EXCHANGE
by Bernard Besson and Sophie Wiener, trans.
Le French Book, June 2016
274 pages
$16.95
ISBN: 1939474620


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

This is a thinking person's thriller. Events are complex, and the opening acts of terrorism at Orly Airport soon become tied to a complex stock exchange (and its manipulation) of rare earth minerals. These are the natural and limited ingredients necessary for creating any number of high-tech devices (including those with military implications), and they are being monitored by a global body set up by the former French President.

He, however, has just been found in his home, having just committed suicide. Or was it murder? And why? John Spencer Lariviere and his team (his colleague Luc and his wife Victoire) are soon called in by the current French president to sort things out, quietly of course. Then there's the mysterious Malaysian lawyer who was one of the Orly victims. How does her work fit in to the unfolding events?

Action here shifts back and forth between Paris and Kuala Lumpur (the two sites hosting the rare earth stock exchange), and readers must keep on their toes to follow all the ever-changing events. As the bodies pile up and the network of those involved in this plot expands, the action ratchets up. Where other thrillers might have taken more time with exposition, this tightly written book stuffs the complicated, unfolding plot into a minimum number of pages.

While originally written in French, the translation is nearly flawless. Readers are never conscious that they are reading something not written originally in English. The only challenge posed by this book is keeping up with the rapid-fire pace of the mystery itself. The reward, however, is certainly worth it.

Christine Zibas is a freelance writer and former director of publications for a Chicago nonprofit.

Reviewed by Christine Zibas, September 2016

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