Jonathan Ransom, an ordinary American guy plunked into a shadowy world of international intrigue, has all the makings of a Hitchcock hero. But the protagonist of Christopher Reich’s Rules of Deception also has a skill set even Jason Bourne might envy: He’s a world-class mountaineer, a trained surgeon who’s worked in various danger hot spots for Doctors Without Borders, and a rebel with a stubborn tendency to operate independently.
The action kicks off in the Swiss Alps, where Ransom and his do-gooder British wife, Emma, are climbing as a blizzard blows in. As they attempt to ski to safety, Emma falls into a deep crevasse and perishes. The next day, Ransom receives an envelope addressed to Emma containing baggage-claim tickets — which soon leads him on a deadly chase involving terrorists, law enforcement, operatives for various foreign governments, and a growing snow mound of corpses. So much for a mourning period.
Propelled to investigate Emma’s mysterious past — and to thwart an imminent attack on a jet flying in to a conference of A-list politicos in Davos — Ransom emerges as a resourceful secret agent. The villains, who range from a lone-wolf Salvadoran-born assassin to an Air Force hero-turned-murderous religious zealot, are a comparative letdown. (Why do writers seem to think that you can’t believe in both Jesus and the U.S. Constitution?) But Ransom himself is a compelling creation, and Reich concocts an elaborate, appealingly twisty plot to introduce him. B+