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Coup d’Etat

Posted by Tracy Poff on August 11, 2011


Pakistan has elected a new leader: a radical cleric named Omar El-Khayab, who is determined to spread Islam throughout the world by any means necessary–including violent jihad. A series of relatively minor events cause tension between India and Pakistan to escalate, until Pakistan drops a nuclear bomb on an Indian city. Now, America must find a way to resolve this conflict before it becomes a full-scale nuclear war between the India and Pakistan, which would doubtless draw their allies, America and China, into conflict with one another, leading to the bloodiest war the world has ever seen.

The only plan that has a hope of defusing the situation without the loss of millions of lives is to forcibly remove El-Khayab from power, and install a new leader who is willing to make peace with India. The only man with a hope of succeeding is Dewey Andreas. Unfortunately, he is in Australia, trying to avoid being killed by terrorists seeking revenge. Somehow, he must escape them, get to Pakistan, and accomplish the coup d’etat–in only two days.

Coup d’Etat by Ben Coes is a thriller, to be published in September 2011. Its story, and particularly the buildup to the war, is surprisingly believable: tensions escalate as a result of minor, but realistic, confrontations and misunderstandings, and the major figures are realistically bound by political considerations, which leads to the proposal of the unorthodox solution which gives the book its title.

The story’s verisimilitude is Coup d’Etat‘s best feature; it doesn’t fare so well in other respects. The realistic buildup of tensions between Pakistan and India come at the price of making the first hundred pages slow and uninteresting. The dialogue and narration are often stilted and filled with jarring use of idiom and reference to particular brand names. Worse, Coes seems unable to write more than a few pages about Dewey without admiring his manly physique and cold attitude. When people meet Dewey for the first time, we’re assured that they are in awe of his muscles and intimidating presence.

This emphasis on masculinity is detrimental to the book in general, and to the reader’s sympathy for the protagonists in particular. The protagonists kill a number of people without any compunction, and sometimes with relish. Dewey enjoys keeping his opponents alive just long enough to see panic and defeat in their eyes, before killing them.

If you can stomach the praise of masculinity and militarism, and are willing to wade through the first quarter of the book until it picks up, Coup d’Etat has a pretty good story to tell. With these caveats, I’d cautiously recommend it to readers looking for a thriller examining potential conflict in the Middle East.

Disclosure: This review is based on a free advance copy of the book.

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