Verdict: THE DIVINE AFFLICTION, a talky attempt to fuse crime thriller, medical thriller and ancient conspiracy thriller ends up uneven.
Derrick Daniels, a lawyer with the United States Department of Justice, is being sent out of the office and out of the country, chasing a possible connection between rogue scientists in Pakistan and crime lords in Colombia. Daniels makes some powerful enemies abroad, and when he gets back to the states his life and the lives of his loved ones are at risk. Daniels has to determine which of his enemies is responsible for the violence around him, as well as who in his own government he can trust, as he tries to figure out how deep the conspiracy goes. Somehow, it might all tie together with fringe brain science, a recent rash of roadkill and some illegal dumping at a cemetery down the street.
One cannot fault Robert M. Fleisher’s novel for failing to be ambitious. The characters of THE DIVINE AFFLICTION travel from the northeast United States to the middle of the Middle East, briefly gracing Asia and Latin America on the way. The plot has elements of speculative science and both local and international conspiracy, proving that Fleisher has done his homework. There is some interesting info on Torah law and Alzheimer’s research—the latter in part revealed during a surprising and well paced sequence in a darkened lecture hall—and as long as the novel’s wacky plot is unfolding, it moves.
Unfortunately, some of the book’s other elements are comparatively stagnant. The characters border on cliché—the goody two-shoes Daniels, his fat and angry boss Mason, his ambitious yet emotional coworker Savannah, as well as a host of mad scientists, arrogant government agents, corrupt local leaders and one dimensional terrorists—and yet their behavior is sometimes confusingly erratic. Perhaps it’s all part of some greater theme about human irrationality, but if that’s so, it’s never brought up in the sometimes blatantly explanatory narrative and dialogue.
Where Fleisher succeeds most is in describing the environment. A living field where government agents go to hunt game on their day off gets a snowy wonderful and icily detailed description. The glittering cityscape of Bangkok is related with the observational skills of a fascinated traveler. These descriptions are painfully few, but they are always worth it when they grant a brief breather in often the thick narrative.
~Colin Newton for IndieReader