Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Stars: 4 / 5
Conspiracy Game is the fourth installment in the Ghostwalker Series by Christine Feehan and published in October 2006. The plot revolves around Jack Norton - GhostWalker from Team Two comprising of Navy SEALS - and Briony "Bri" Jenkins - one of Dr. Peter Whitney's Orphan Girls from Group One.
Ghostwalkers are a group of women and men who are sent on special missions. They have enhances psychic and physical abilities along with genetic modifications, using in some cases not just human genes but all kinds of animal and plant genes. However every Ghostwalker would need an "anchor" to draw back the psychic backlash, especially that would instigate violence. They are complex characters trying to live with their enhanced abilities and at the same time fight against the corrupt people around them, executing their missions successfully. So far we are introduced to two teams of GhostWalkers Men serving in various areas of law enforcement and armed forces and one group of Orphan Girls on whom Dr. Peter Whitney had experimented. He has paired each of his GhostWalker men with the women in the hopes to breed the next generation of GhostWalkers.
In Shadow Game we had seen that Dr. Lily Whitney-Miller, married to Captain Ryland "King" Miller - head of Team One - find the details of the Orphan Girls that Dr. Peter Whitney had experimented on along with Lily. Now adopted or held in a different lab or on their own, Lily and Ryland are determined to find those girls now women, rescue them and provide a safe haven. So far they have rescued Dahlia Le Blanc and Iris "Flame" Johnson.
Although we were briefly introduced to GhostWalker Team Two in the second book, Mind Game, we get to see more of two members of that team in this plot. In the previous book, Night Game, we had seen that Ken Norton is captured by the rebels in Congo while rescuing a scientist and his team. His twin brother Jack Norton and a few of his team members along with Nicolas Trevane and Sam Johnson from GhostWalker Team One head to Congo to rescue Ken. But in the process Jack Norton gets hit and lost from the team. Just as I had expected, Christine spins her next book around the Norton twins, focusing first on Jack Norton.
That is where this book begins. Jack gets captured by the rebels and endures the same torture that his brother had gone through. Eventually Jack escapes from the rebels in Congo, reaching Kinshasa where a Navy SEAL he once knew was performing a high-flying act with his family - The Flying Five. But he finds coming across Briony "Bri" Jenkins, the sister of the four Jenkins brothers and the fifth member of the Flying Five. Nothing made sense to either Jack or Bri as to so many coincidences when none should be there. Cautious of the events around them, wary of each other, still fighting the known at times unknown enemy, Jack and Bri drift towards each other, all the while unraveling the Conspiracy surrounding them.
The amount of torture that Jack and Ken Norton go through at the hands of the rebels Major Keon Biyoya is unfathomable. Biyoya has a little more time with Ken than Jack so the torture goes a notch up. Reading it gave me shudders all through my body and for days I couldn’t take them out of my mind. I could not believe that someone could so much harm to a human being.
A month before I had written my original review of this, I had an opportunity to meet Christine Feehan in person. So, during the course of our conversation I had asked her I had to ask her if the torture was for real - the peeling of the skin, the precise two-inch cuts all over the body. And Christine mentioned that it is for real. She had read a bunch of transcripts on the tortures soldiers endured that are really heartbreaking and one of them was this kind of torture. I couldn’t believe it even after she told me. Here is the full interview with her.
The first time around when I read the book, I didn’t remember that Jack went through the same torture as Ken. Only Ken's torture stuck in my head. But now that I am reading it again, I see both brothers endured the same torture, just Ken's was a notch up. Perhaps that is why I remember Ken's more than Jack's.
The war room strategies that the GhostWalker teams come up for their missions are very similar to what the Carpathians do in the Dark Series, however, yet very different. Christine must have studied several battle strategies and war room theories to come up with them.
In Night Game, it was clear that Flame Johnson, now Flame Fontenot, was antagonistic towards Dr. Lily Whitney-Miller, due to whatever happened when they were held by Dr. Peter Whitney in the lab for experiments. However, in this plot, Christine showed us that they had patched up their differences, in fact not only working together but also showing a camaraderie infused with humor. Pleasantly happy to see them all together again, as a reader.
Christine goes in detailed length to explain the scientific work behind gene enhancement using animal and plant genes and also the technology with regards to hardware and software in computers. That would involve tremendous amount of research. Simply mind blowing that Christine put together untested recipes into her plot that could very well be our future, but slightly distant.
Christine has the Norton twins living in the wilderness and mountains of Montana. The place she describes is something that I would like to get-away to for a little while but not live there forever. However, her tale on how the Norton twins and Briony live there is far too tempting to resist.
Jack Norton's undying love towards his brother Ken and later to towards Briony, his loyalty towards his team, his capability to protect anyone he takes under his wing - all characters captured my heart as a reader towards Jack the second time around I read the book. Yet, I can't help to feel for Ken, the way he just accepts his life, faces his torture head-on and living with whatever life gave him. Jack is also similar, but Ken is whom I craved to know more about and read soon.
The agenda that Dr. Peter Whitney has with regards to the GhostWalker men and women, the careless nature towards the women especially by literally and figuratively keeping them prisoners and all along getting his missions executed - as every layer of Whitney is peeled, shudders and shivers increased in my body. I can't even think of my enemy to be at the mercy of Dr. Whitney. As a reader, I want to just kill him. However, as a writer, Christine perhaps as a much better plan for Whitney. One just have to wait and see.
With this plot Christine gives the reader a lot about on how much a human body, mind and soul can endure before they shatter completely. An education on some of the military deeds that happen around the world and the hidden agendas behind them. One gets amazed at how a single force can use power, knowledge, money and authority to cause life-threatening and sometimes global incidents. My mind blew at the complex and hidden plots within the plots. Hats off to Christine to pull all of them together and yet not have the reader lost in that web. Of course the chemistry, attraction and erotic side of Jack and Briony was fun to read too.
Do pick it up if you are curious about the fate of Ghostwalkers and what happens next.
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