Patriot Act by James Phelan

9780733620980, Hachette Australia, 2007 (link).

Lachlan Fox is an investigative journalist for GSR (Global Syndicate of Reporters). He’s an ex-Aussie Navy operative now in New York City. He is attempting to uncover just who may be trying to access the powerful information database ‘Echelon’, and to what purpose. The information could enable any smaller power to have significant run over the free world. Fox himself has several eyes upon him, one of them enraged by a liaison with his lover, Kate.

Fox’s best friend, Al Gammaldi (the poor man’s Al Giordino) is also hands-on in the investigation, but the majority of their banter involves pizza, fat jokes, arses, and Kevin Smith movies. The book actually features a cavalcade of under-30s attitudes and pop-culture references. Unfortunately though, the female characters are weak, willing and ultimately patronising.

The action is reasonably intense, but the proliferation of one-page chapters could have been worked into better hooks for the reader. Too much is explained too soon and the only surprise is at the very end. Fox is mixed between serious investigative journalism and the lighter side of life, sometimes uncomfortably.

As a thriller it is reasonably enjoyable. Phelan’s intentions are also interesting, to make the world aware of Orwellian threats to freedom. If you enjoy Robert Ludlum this may be right up your alley. Fox Hunt was the first Lachlan Fox book, and Blood Oil (the third) is planned for 2008, which Phelan informs me will be much darker. I look forward to seeing his development.

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