Sunday, December 30, 2012

Book Review: The Intercept by Dick Wolf

Title: The Intercept
Author: Dick Wolf
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: December 26, 2012
Source: ARC received from the publisher for an honest review

Plot Summary from Goodreads :

Days before the July Fourth holiday and the dedication of One World Trade Center at Ground Zero, an incident aboard a commercial jet over the Atlantic Ocean reminds everyone that vigilance is not a task to be taken lightly. But for iconoclastic New York Police detective Jeremy Fisk, it may also be a signal that there is much more to this case than the easy answer: that this is just the work of another lone terrorist.

Fisk—from the department’s Intelligence Division, a well-funded anti-terror unit modeled upon the CIA—suspects that the event might also be a warning sign that another, potentially more extraordinary scheme has been set in motion. Fluent in Arabic and the ways of his opponents, Fisk is a rule breaker who follows his gut—even if it means defying those above him in the department’s food chain. So when a passenger from the same plane, a Saudi Arabian national, disappears into the crowds of Manhattan, it’s up to Fisk and his partner Krina Gersten to find him before the celebrations begin.

Watching each new lead fizzle, chasing shadows to dead ends, Fisk and Gersten quickly realize that their opponents are smarter and more agile than any they have ever faced. Extremely clever and seemingly invisible, they are able to exploit any security weakness and anticipate Fisk’s every move. And time is running out.

My Review:

If you have watched TV at all in the last 20 years, the name Dick Wolf probably rings a bell.  He's the creator of TV's Law & Order series (DUN DUN).  When I heard he had written a book, I was intrigued.  I figured if he wrote in a manner similar to the dramatic style of his TV shows, the book had the potential to be awesome.  Or, he could end up being an egotistical Hollywood-type who thinks he can write fiction, but is dead wrong.

So, first things first: I'm happy to report that Dick Wolf CAN write fiction.  Really fantastic fiction, in fact.  The prose is tight, the characters click, and the suspense had me awake and reading way later than my life with a 1-year-old should allow.

Let's talk about the writing for a moment.  Wolf is (unsurprisingly) a New York City connossieur, and it shows in the details of this novel.  The ins and outs of the NYPD's structure is explained well, including bits of information about the Intelligence Division that it seems only an insider would know.  It was interesting to see how this department works--and also how its investigative techniques, though advanced, are not foolproof.  The cultural makeup of the five boroughs is illustrated in a way that makes a non-New Yorker feel like they have an intimate understanding of the city.  New York City is the main location for a lot of novels, but that doesn't always translate into a dynamic and immersive setting the way it does here.  These details added a lot to the believability of the storyline.

While we're talking about details, I think it's important to note that Wolf took some liberties with the timeline used in this novel.  He has one crucial scene in the beginning that involves bin Laden's assassination (in May 2011), and the rest of the novel takes place around July 4th weekend in that same year.  However, the dates for the year are wrong (July 4th is on a Sunday in the novel, it was actually a Monday in 2011), and he has the World Trade Center dedication happening that weekend (as far as I know, the dedication hasn't happened yet since the building is going to be finished in 2013).  This threw me off at first, but since the terrorist acts in the novel are purely fictional, in hindsight I can see why he wanted to fictionalize the timing as well.

Our protagonist in this novel is Jeremy Fisk.  I am often leery of series that continually focus on one character, because I think they sometimes center too much on that particular person and not enough on the action of the story.  That is not the case in The Intercept.  Fisk's background is explained just enough so that he feels like a well-rounded character, but not so much that it seems the entire book revolves around him.  By the end, I cared enough about him that I wanted to read the next installment in his series (get on that, Wolf), but I didn't lose focus on the plot as a whole.  I think this is a tricky balance for an author to maintain.  I also loved Fisk's relationship with his colleague/girlfriend, Krina Gersten.  Their dynamic was punchy and fun, but with a bit of a soft center.  It is so easy for romance in a thriller to seem silly or misplaced (hi, every Dan Brown novel) but I didn't get that sense here at all.

Last but not least, let's talk about the most important thing--the action!  What is a thriller novel without action?  The plot has a ton of twists, but doesn't feel overdone or too complex.  It will leave you guessing without causing confusion in a ton of important details.  That said, there was one twist (a somewhat major one) that I found rather predictable, which was a bit disappointing.  My guess is that anyone else reading the book will probably figure it out as well, since the character it involves is focused upon way more than they should be.  I was afraid this obvious plot turn would detract from the end of the novel, but fortunately, it didn't.  Even when you figure out who the bad guy/girl is, there are still so many questions and further change-ups that you stay engaged right through to the end.

In case you haven't guessed, my doubts about Dick Wolf as an author have been dashed.  If you are a fan of crime thrillers, read this NOW.  It's an amazing literary debut, and I will be checking out the next Jeremy Fisk novel for sure.


Are you a Law and Order fan?  Are you planning to check out Dick Wolf's new novel as a result?


  1. I read this book as an ARC. Here's what I thought.

    I expected more of Dick Wolf, the "architect" of the TV series "Law and Order." The publisher's synopsis promises that his book THE INTERCEPT is a "grade-A thriller." It is. But the kind of suspense that makes you want to turn the pages does not happen until around page 230. After that the book does become unputdownable. But why did I have to wait so long?

    Also, the characters who are introduced in order to show the folly of profiling are not convincing. If I say more about this, I will spoil the suspense. You'll see.

    Obviously, the great testimonials by such noted thriller writers as Harlan Coben and Lisa Gardner are because of THE INTERCEPT's later chapters and its big-bang end.

    The advanced reader's copy of THE INTERCEPT arrived in my mail with no letter, and I received no email to inform me it was coming. So who to thank? Certainly, the publisher, William Morrow. And I probably won it through That's a guess.

  2. Techeditor, thanks for your comment, it's nice to hear from someone else that's read it! I do agree that the majority of the page-turning suspense happens late in the novel, but I think I still enjoyed the earlier parts because of the buildup...I felt drawn into the story as I figured out some background on the characters, how the Intel Division worked, etc. and at the same time tried to make the links between the earlier events (bin Laden's assassination, etc) with the later terrorist attempts.

    Also, in response to your comment about unconvincing characters--I do agree with that, because as I mentioned in my review, I found the reveal of the bad guy/girl to be a complete non-surprise. I assume Wolf thought he would spring it on us because the person does not fit a "typical" terrorist profile, but it was still pretty obvious and seemed somewhat of a stretch in terms of believeability.

    My copy also arrived with no letter, though I assume I got it via their ad on Shelf Awareness.


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