I had tried to sleep, but it was hopeless.
I gazed around
the cabin, dark, the blinds pulled down. The only light was the flicker
of the wordless movie on the screen. The only sound the all-encompassing
roar of the jet engines. I glanced at my watch, four hours to Sydney. By
the time we landed it would be more than a day since Janac's flunkeys
had hauled me out of bed. And every second of it had been spent wound up
the max. I tried to concentrate on the decision I had made and the new
problems it presented.
The plan had
been simple. Do as I was told. Get through customs if I could, drop off
the drugs and then get the hell out of there. That was the decision
Janac wanted me to make, I'd been all set to play the defector -- till I
saw Kate. But now . . .? I just couldn't do it. I had to try something,
I couldn't let her see me get shot or arrested as a smuggler. Because I
knew I didn't stand a bat's chance in hell of making it through customs.
Apart from the normal risks, I was known by name and face to an
Australian narc. I had no chance. It ended for me in death or jail. But
at least I could make Kate believe I was trying to do the right thing
when I went down.
Martin Cormac is a man on the run -- from
himself. Seven months earlier, Cormac was involved (read: responsible)
for a highway accident in which eighteen people died. He slowly loses
his grip, and in the process, his job as an investment banker. As The
Defector begins, Martin Cormac is drinking his way through a series
of sleazy bars on the resort island Ko Sumui, in the Gulf of Thailand.
Cormac is rescued in a bar fight by a
mysterious figure named Janac, an American drug dealer with a dark CIA
past and a psychological need to test people under the harshest
conditions. Janac's test, administered in a series of life-and-death
encounters, is a famous psychological conundrum called the "Prisonerís
Dilemma." Two prisoners are given a choiceóto inform, or not to inform,
on each other. If they rat each other out, they each get three-year
sentences. If neither does, they get one-year sentences. But if one rats
and the other doesn't--the ratter goes free and the rattee gets five
Viewing the two prisoners as a system, it
would be most advantageous to cooperate and receive a one-year sentence.
But the promise of going free is always dangling in front of each
prisoner--making a three-year sentence the most probable outcome. Unless
. . .
Janac ensnares Martin Cormac in his
criminal drug organization, but Cormac resists, secretly informing on
Janac. In terms of the Prisonerís Dilemma, he refuses to cooperate
(choosing good over evil) and winds up paying a price. What that price
is--and how Martin Cormac and his friends come to pay it--forms the
armature of this philosophical action / thriller.
As the scene shifts from the isle of Ko
Sumui, to Sydney, to the high seas, the tension ratchets up while the
romance sputters along. Eventually more and more innocent victims are
dragged into the Cormac / Janac continuum resulting in a small, tragic
society forced to play Prisoner's Dilemma in the real world, rather than
in the safe harbor of the realm of thought.
is an action thriller
written by Mark Chisnell.
Author Mark Chisnell has a background in
competitive sailing, degrees in physics and philosophy and (one
suspects) a mixologist's degree buried in his Curriculum Vitae. At any
rate, he knows his way around a louche bar equally as well as a
high-tech racing yacht.
Cormac, Chisnell has created a complex anti-hero, a man forced to come
to grips with his past through his present interactions with a
psychopath. While this drama is being played out, Martin Cormac also is
given the gift of a second chance with the woman of his dreams, the
lovely Kate. Kate's current boyfriend, Scott, is also forced into
playing Prisoner's Dilemma, adding to the stakes. Itís winner take all
for Martin Cormac: his life--and the love of his life.
The Defector is smoothly written
and reasonably well-plotted, making the ensnarement of Martin Cormac
both credible and terrifying. Sometimes bizarre people can just work
their way into your life. The next thing you know it's restraining order
time--or in Martin Cormac's
I always appreciate writing that expands
a genre, taking the reader somewhere new. In basing The Defector
on a philosophical thought-experiment, Mark Chisnell has breathed
new life into the formulaic thriller world. I recommend his book as a
taut and gripping voyage through darkness into . . . well, if not
redemption, at least a sense of making peace with the past and having
hope for the future. It was a pleasure to read a thriller in which some
of the conflict was physical, some romantic, and some took place on the
battlefield of competing philosophies.
I rated this book a 9 out of 10.