The Rules of Silence
by David Lindsey
Warner Books, 2003, 405 pgs
Review score: * out of *****

In general I don't read a lot of detective or mystery fiction. An exception has been David Lindsey. I own most of his books, even some of the more obscure works, published early in his career. I have been drawn to Lindsey's books by his writing style and the moral ambiguity of his plots. Sometimes decent people do ugly things in Lindsey's stories. As in life, in Lindsey's plots there have been no simple answers.

The Rules of Silence is the last David Lindsey book I'm planning to buy. The only reason that I was able to finish this howler is that I could not believe that the plot was really as simplistic as it turned out to be. I kept thinking that Lindsay would twist the plot around in the end and show the reader that everything that they thought was true was not. Instead The Rules of Silence was a waste of time and money. This is the sort of book that I would expect from Clive Cussler, not the author of Mercy.

The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 were the first time a city in the United States has suffered a violent attack since the Civil War. As terrible and tragic as the September 11 attacks were, on the scale of damage suffered by London during "the Blitz" attacks by the Germans in 1940 or the destruction suffered by Dresden Germany in February of 1945, the loss was comparatively small. There has been a huge impact on our national psychology. Our citizens seems to have lost the ability to form critical judgments and The Rules of Silence can be read as one example of this.

The protagonists of The Rules of Silence are Titus Cain and a Mexican man named Cayetano Luquín Becerra. In a sense, both Cain and Luquín are self-made men. Titus is a never-was dot-com guy. He attended Stanford and went on to CERN in Switzerland at the same time Tim Berners-Lee was working on the early technology that became the Web.

Though he'd been just on the periphery of that new development, Titus saw the profound implications of what was happening as quickly as anyone else. He came back home and founded a tiny company that created software for specialized computers in biomedical engineering research. He marketed his company over the newly developing Internet, and while the World Wide Web was still in the early stages of its academic origins, Titus Cain was communicating with research laboratories on every continent, literally years ahead of other software developers. CaiText became the standard software provider for laser applications medical researchers all over the globe.[sic]

Page 23 of the hard cover edition of The Rules of Silence

The last sentence in this quote really is in the original. I checked it to make sure I had not made a mistake in copying it. The poor editing in this book goes along with the poor quality of the writing and plot.

Opposite our brilliant Titus Cain is the psychopathic Cayetano Luquín Becerra, called Luquín or Tano to his henchmen (Luquín has no friends). Tano grew up in a well to do family in Mexico, but had no taste for the placid life of a lawyer or manager. Rather he became an assassin and kidnaper in the on-going Columbian drug wars. The various factions in Columbia have become sophisticated kidnapers who extort multimillion dollar ransoms. Luquín became the most sophisticated of these. He has decided to make his kidnaping enterprise multinational, branching out to the United States. Tano does not actually kidnap Titus Cain. Instead he threatens to kill everyone Cain cares about unless he is paid $64 million dollars, about a quarter of the worth of Cain's company CaiText.

One could imagine a complex psychological drama unfolding between these two protagonists. Perhaps this is what David Lindsey originally had in mind. But this is not the story we get. Rather, Luquín is a sort of Dr. Evil, a man on the level of Osama Bin Laden. Despite his background in kidnaping in Columbia, Luquín is not simply in it for the money. He has something more nefarious in mind. Luquín is an Evil Doer, who seeks to attack the United States, in ways that never become clear.

The core view driving the plot in The Rules of Silence is that the United States is beset with Evil Doers who seek to harm us. They seek to do this simply because they are evil. Bin Laden and al-Qaeda, who are motivated by Islamic fanaticism and the fantasy of returning the world to the era of the Prophet Mohammed, is grouped with a Columbian kidnaper.

The FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia) guerilla group in Columbia has been responsible for numerous kidnapings and killings. FARC has Marxist roots and presumably at one time was motivated by Marxist ideology. No ideology or religious motive is attributed to Luquín. He seeks to harm the United States because he is an Evil Doer, nothing more.

Maybe the reason that Tano has been promoted from greedy psychopathic kidnapper to Evil Doer is that without such a promotion he would not warrent the attention of the super secret group that comes to Cain's aid. This group is run by García Burden from his luxurious compound in the trendy Mexican town of San Miguel de Allende. Burden has a dark past in the secret wars against the South American drug lords. Burden's operation is obviously very expensive. The first place the story starts to fall apart is when Burden offers to help Titus Cain, but never discusses any fee or payment for expenses, which could be expected to run in the millions of dollars. Burden does not charge a fee because he is already in the employ of the United States government in the on-going fight against Evil Doers. Burden does those dirty deeds that the government might want to deny. If there are "collateral casualties" while fighting the good fight, it is on Burden's head. The government can deny everything (although we are informed that the ultimate authority comes from the President). Burden is after Luquín and willing to help (or perhaps sacrafice) Titus Cain and his wife because Burden has wind of Luquín's nefarious larger designs against the United States. There are a few suggestions that Luquín evil plots involve people from the Middle East. Burden, the secret warrior, must stop Luquín, even if innocent people must die for the greater good.

Technology, from high tech listening devices to cryptography is a constant theme in The Rules of Silence. Sadly Lindsay does not seem to have done even the most modest research. Luquín is supposed to have a sophisticated operation, making use of the latest in technology. His henchmen communicate via encrypted e-mail. Burden is able to put together an equally sophisticated operation and crack Tano's encrypted communication. Maybe Tano is not really that sophisticated and is only using a secret decoder ring. If Tano and Co. really were using modern cryptographic techniques, like PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) or RC5, their communications would be indecipherable. Burden never would have been able to read those secret e-mails.

In contrast to some of Lindsay's previous work, the characters in The Rules of Silence are cliches, without any depth. The story is so predictable and trite that until I reached the last page I could not believe that Lindsay would actually write something like this. If Lindsay had a long history of writing empty "boy fiction", then I would not expect anything else. Sadly Lindsay has been capable of better work. Given the poor quality of this book and the fact that there are so many good books, I'll think twice before spending time on another David Lindsay work.

Ian Kaplan
May 2003
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