4 out of 4 stars
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From the first page to the last, The Tissue Trail Conspiracy by Garth Gunston is a nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat wild ride. Written in an immediately gripping and fast-paced style, its clear exposition and gradually deepening suspense keep the reader glued to the page all the way to a white-knuckle climax that is beyond memorable. This is a complex, multilayered political mystery thriller that has several elements that also translate well onto the big screen - international drug trafficking, exotic travel destinations, smart and sexy characters, and a healthy dose of murder and sabotage.
The story begins in Singapore, where several young women are awaiting execution after being convicted of heroin trafficking under Singapore’s extremely stringent sentencing laws. The following chapters delve into the events that brought the young women there, and introduce us to businessman/medical researcher/travel photographer/adventurer Edward Thurston, who somehow finds himself caught up in the situation. Through sheer bad luck, Thurston happens to be in the same geographical location as the arrests of the young women took place – the so-called Tissue Trail in Nepal – and is suspected by local authorities of being somehow involved. While trying to clear his own name, Thurston begins to look deeper into the case involving the young women facing execution, and uncovers many pieces that are incongruent with the story being presented by the media. Thurston works along with his assistant Jaci to find evidence to try to save the women from the death penalty, but ends up stumbling into a conspiracy much deeper than he or Jaci initially expect. Each step they take drives the stakes up, and soon they are pursued by multiple entities seeking to silence them by any means necessary, for motives that are anything but clear.
As the suspense builds, the author very skillfully introduces new characters that move the story forward, leading the reader through each layer of the mystery as the main character uncovers the truth bit by bit. The exciting pace is maintained throughout the book, building in momentum appropriately through the final scenes. Because the story is set in Nepal, Tibet, and Singapore, there are many sections that include fascinating geographical descriptions of those areas, as well as the Himalaya mountains. Readers who enjoy travelling are likely to appreciate the descriptive language and outdoor setting of this story. The author also offers us an interesting peek into the diplomatic relations between Tibet and China during the late 90s and through 2001 (when the story takes place). Though the events in this book are obviously dramatic fiction, it is clear the author has taken the time to research the politics and interactions between the governments of that part of the world. These elements added a credence to the story that set it apart from a simple action thriller, and made me feel like I learned something at the same time as I enjoyed the story.
There were only two small negatives I noted. One is the fact that a few sections seemed to have been skipped over by an editor, as they included several (albeit minor) grammatical errors. Since these were limited to just a small handful of paragraphs, they were not distracting enough to detract from the rest of the work. Also, I personally found the female characters in this book to be somewhat one-dimensional. Many paragraphs were spent on describing each of their appearances, but only a handful of sentences were devoted to their back-stories or character development. Their appearance was a factor that came up again and again each time Thurston interacted with them, and more than one of them entered into sexual relationships with him. These sections seemed unnecessary and I believe the story would have held up just as well (if not better) on the merit of the mystery/conspiracy alone.
Regardless of the negative bits above, I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars, as its positive aspects are much more numerous. I believe there is quite a wide audience for this type of novel. The book includes elements of science and research, as well as some insightful depictions of the media and its patterns in worldwide news reporting, which provide plenty of material for discussion in intellectual settings. Readers of action stories will appreciate the pace, exciting twists, and narrow escapes. Readers of mysteries will appreciate the complexity and unusual nature of the case. Travelers will appreciate the descriptions of mountain trails and trekking adventures on which some of the characters embark. This is a book that has something to offer for almost any reader, and I would not be hesitant to give it out to friends with a personal recommendation.
The Tissue Trail Conspiracy
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