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Bookmarks Issue: 
43-Nov-Dec-2009
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A-Jerichos FallStephen L. Carter, a distinguished Yale law professor, is the author of several works of nonfiction on legal policy and ethics and intricate, literary thrillers (The Emperor of Ocean Park, 4 of 5 Stars Nov/Dec 2002; New England White, 3.5 of 5 Stars Sept/Oct 2007; and Palace Council, 2.5 of 5 Stars Sept/Oct 2008). Jericho’s Fall is his fourth novel.

The Story: Former CIA director Jericho Ainsley, dying of cancer, has summoned former lover Rebecca "Beck" DeForde—the pretty teenage coed who cost him his career nearly 15 years before—to his palatial mountain retreat. Beck arrives at the compound, which is fortified with state-of-the-art weapons systems and surveillance equipment, and intends to say a final farewell. Instead, she finds herself drawn into a tangled web of secrets and paranoia. Unmarked helicopters circle overhead, sinister strangers haunt the grounds, cell phones mysteriously ring despite the lack of service, and a headless dog is left for Beck as a warning. Someone wants the past to remain buried, and Beck must unravel the lies and deceit if she is to survive.
Knopf. 355 pages. $25.95. ISBN: 9780307272621

San Francisco Chronicle 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Jericho’s Fall is that rare thing: a page-turner that grips the readers’ attention as they plunge into a vortex that takes them into a nightmarish world where nothing is quite as it seems. … Carter is a masterly novelist, and his control of plot and character development is sure and unobtrusively skillful." Martin Rubin

Boston Globe 4 of 5 Stars
"His new thriller, Jericho’s Fall, has perhaps the most Byzantine plot twists yet and enough red herrings to feed every guest at a mystery writers’ gala. I enjoyed it immensely, even if there were moments when I thought the plausibility meter was way off the charts." Chris Bohjalian

Denver Post 4 of 5 Stars
"It’s not a story immersed in character, but it’s rich enough to make the reader care, at times heart-stoppingly so. … Carter brings the reader to a blazing final confrontation, as surprising as it is inevitable." Robin Vidimos

Los Angeles Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Jericho’s Fall—an intricate spy thriller that proceeds at breakneck speed from mystery to revelation and back again—marks a clear departure in his work, one that is likely to win him an even larger audience, and deservedly so. This is the sort of book Graham Greene used to call ‘an entertainment’ and Greene’s readers, who savored those novels’ unselfconscious erudition and matter-of-fact moral complexity, as well as their engaging plots, are likely to feel themselves on familiar ground here." Tim Rutten

Seattle Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Everybody, even the town librarian and the cops, seems to have a back story. And that makes the cinematic conclusion all the more intense and, sad to say, somewhat predictable with its Aha! Revelations. … If Carter fails to induce genuine surprise in the end, he compensates by plunging us headfirst into swirling psychological and physical realms along the way." Tyrone Beason

Washington Post 3 of 5 Stars
"It’s all a bit much. Carter writes graceful prose, and he understands the mechanics of suspenseful storytelling, but he overdoes it here." Patrick Anderson

Critical Summary

Despite a few doubts about the plausibility of the book’s story line, most critics thoroughly enjoyed Jericho’s Fall, a fast-paced thriller filled with intrigue, deception, and suspense. Carter guides Beck, his appealing, likeable heroine, through labyrinthine plot twists at breakneck speed, stopping along the way to shed light on the shady underbelly of the CIA, national security, and even Wall Street. Though the Boston Globe lamented the book’s sacrifice of character in favor of complicated plot machinations, and the Washington Post considered the story line too melodramatic, most reviewers praised Carter’s elegant writing and intricate maneuverings. The end result is a superbly enjoyable, gripping page-turner that will leave readers trying to catch their breath.