Random House Australia, Oct 2006
Reviewed by Kerrie Smith
DANCE OF DEATH by John Case opens dramatically with a helicopter crash in
Liberia. Photojournalist Mike Burke is a passenger in the helicopter and
although you know he will probably survive, it is hard to see how. Within
the subsequent chapters, the main threads of this carefully woven novel
are set in motion. We meet Bobojon, recently a guest of the United States
prison service; his uncle Hakim, Arab sponsor of terrorists; Jack Wilson,
the "Ghost Dancer", would-be terrorist looking for financial backing; and
then finally Mike Burke reappears. He turns up alive and well in Ireland
some thirty pages (and fourteen months) after the helicopter crash, having
not only survived, but been married to and then widowed from the doctor
who saved his life.
Jack Wilson, the "Ghost Dancer", is a brilliant mathematician, part
American Indian, and out for revenge for injustices to his 'people'. He
believes that he knows how to disable the United States through a
terrorist act, but he needs backing. His former cell-mate Bobojon lines up
a task. Jack must deposit some suitcases in a passenger line in Washington
D.C. airport, and walk away from them. He does so, believing that they
will explode. His actions are captured on surveillance television and the
police officer viewing the tape realises that the case-depositor has been
involved in some sort of test. Meanwhile, in Ireland, Mike Burke is now
working for his father in law, setting up limited liability corporations
with off-shore accounts and paid directors. When "Francisco d'Anconia"
meets with Mike the first of the pennies drop in this complex story.
In many senses DANCE OF DEATH is a thriller with global appeal. The
central theme is terrorism, a sure seller in current times. The principal
characters rove the globe and we meet them in a variety of locations
including Ireland, the United States, Russia, Turkey, and Slovenia. This
can make the sequence of events confusing at times, particularly as
chapters are often subtitled with a location and a date. On the other
hand, it heightens the sense of a number of threads marching inexorably
towards a final resolution. As the threads converge, the tension mounts,
and the reader is left in no doubt about what the possible outcome is.
This is a thriller that is hard to put down.
John Case is the pseudonym of Jim and Carolyn Hougan, husband and wife,
both published authors in their own right. Jim Hougan is also an
award-winning investigative journalist and broadcaster. For me this
discovery helps explain what felt, as I read, was a certain patchiness in
the story flow. It was as if the author had changed his story-board
without attendant revision of what he had already written.
DANCE OF DEATH has also been released with the alternative title GHOST
DANCER. For those who are left wondering how fanciful the terrorism in the
novel is, Case has included a final chapter of acknowledgements outlining
the research that inspired him.
Also by John Case:
THE GENESIS CODE
THE FIRST HORSEMAN
THE EIGHTH DAY
November 2006 review first published on Murder and Mayhem
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