I don’t generally read political action thrillers. I met Tom Clancy once when his Hunt for Red October had just come out. I met him at a gaming event where he was playing Harpoon. True story. Clancy was approachable but what stunned me was his off-the-cuff depth of knowledge about naval warfare and ship details. I read a lot of his books over the years but once he became a franchise/factory, I just dropped out of that genre. Sadly, with his demise, I just felt it would be hard for anyone to fill his boots.
I broke my streak this spring when I finally broke down and read a Jack Reacher novel. I liked it, despite constantly picturing Tom Cruise saying all of the lines. Honestly, I didn’t want to like it, but I found myself liking the witty dialogue and Reacher’s unique brand of thinking. Suddenly I was back reading political thrillers.
When I saw the cover for Jeffrey Miller’s Bureau 39, it kind of pulled me in. Don’t kid yourself, we’ve all bought novels because of a good cover…admit it. The synopsis grabbed me too. A mysterious North Korean Bureau that was covertly plying the drug trade to help secure ICBM’s with nuclear capability. I purchased it a few months ago and had no idea how timely the subject matter was going to be.
Actually – it’s eerie how accurate this book feels. Makes me wonder, does Miller have some sort of inside track we’re unaware of?
I won’t ruin the plot or story for you. Suffice it to say, it is a solid plot. Two things stood out for me. One was the dialogue of the characters. They were distinct voices in the story, and were not cheesy one-liners but carefully crafted phrases. There were times I chuckled at some of the references. Miller doesn’t waste scenes or character time with things that don’t propel the plot forward – and that is something that is both rare and worthy of respect. Good dialogue ensures good believable characters. Miller is masterful in this aspect of his art.
My favorite part of the book is that the author puts you there, in Korea. This is not blatant, but subtle. You are given a fantastic geopolitical and geography lesson throughout the smooth flow of this book. There are wonderful little details that I ended up Googling only to find that Miller was dead-on with his facts. This added sense of realism in the setting makes Bureau 39 a welcome addition to any political thriller bookshelf.
Given the current tensions between US and North Korea, this book couldn’t be timelier and adds to a captivating story and strong characters. This is a solid five out of five stars.