4 out of 4 stars
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At the beginning of New Reform, written by Jim Lowe, a non-identified character wonders: “Am I a terrorist?” Throughout this well-woven plot that involves political radicalization and information manipulation, readers get to follow the chain of events that led to this moment.
Tatum O’Neill and Jack Gardner grew up in Arlington, a small village in England, and they both come from dysfunctional families. Tatum’s father is a cold-hearted arms dealer with links to the Ulster Freedom Fighters in Belfast. Patrick, her oldest brother, aka Killer, is a football hooligan and a neo-Nazi. Shortly after turning sixteen, Tatum flees her abusive home and leaves for London with her rifle – a birthday gift from her father. She gets recruited by the Sisters of Mercy, a paramilitary group with ties to British intelligence (MI5 and MI6).
Jack’s alcoholic mother abandoned their home when he was twelve. His father committed suicide a few years later, and the tragic events made Jack an angry and aggressive teenager. The stable elements in his life were his girlfriend Caitlyn and a job as a professional newsagent. The protagonists’ paths cross when Wendy, a friend with a shady agenda, introduces them.
I enjoyed how the author developed secondary characters, especially Martin Whitehead and Tony Spicer, who play crucial roles in the plot. Martin is the owner of a marketing company in London, mAD, in tune with a far-right campaign and movement called New Reform. Tony is his loyal right-hand man and lifelong friend. All these intricate political ingredients culminate in a terrorist attack, but no spoilers are allowed!
What I liked the most about the book was how the story revolved around the themes of identities, loyalties, and vulnerabilities. I appreciated the portrayal of how susceptible and confused youngsters can endanger themselves to vent frustrations and feel that they belong to something. In my opinion, the development of multilayered and nuanced personalities, especially as the protagonists get older, got brilliantly done. The author masterfully unfolded the impacts of their predicaments.
Additionally, I was highly impressed with the author’s writing style as he conveys Jack’s confusion. For instance, the character worries about having a German Jewish extended family after he gets involved with a far-right movement called the Arlington Faction. This group of thugs also has the O’Neill brothers as members. But Jack doesn’t quite identify with them and soon starts leaning toward left-wing groups. Lowe describes Jack’s opinions as “serious enough for him to hold them for at least a month or so.”
Lastly, I rate the book 4 out of 4 stars. It seems professionally edited. I did not find any errors in it. The way the author pieced together an initially scattered plot was absorbing and kept me hooked. I felt like I was solving a puzzle. I highly recommend it to readers who enjoy thrillers with a touch of politics. It does entail a fair share of violence and profanity, so if you feel uncomfortable with such aspects, you should probably steer clear of this one.
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