FeaturedThriller & Suspense

The Brooch Heist


Loved it! 😍

Choose Allegiances Wisely: Sophisticated, Intelligent - with a Heavy Dose of Insanity

At some point in the middle of the book, it states, "Hard to separate sick fantasies from the facts", which accurately describes the experience as a reader. From the peaks of climbs in Switzerland to Brussels and Paris, despite their sophistication in some aspects, the degrees of violence, disregard for one another's physical or psychological safety, the contrast between the FBI as a law enforcement agency, an underworld of dark crimes, and a Russian 'curtain', it's difficult to find an empathetic character except for psychological healing for K.

The characters seem to blur the lines between personal mission, agency, and dealings with criminals. It's difficult to decipher whether they are strictly training for a mission or pursuing these climbs as a rite of passage or personal will to overcome struggles. 

The mission is inferred as the long-standing challenges of intergovernmental relations between the U.S., Europe, and Russia, but the individual character's roles and purpose are murky at best. 

 The naming conventions suggest the deliberate attempt at gender neutrality is well suited for agency training. But, Cartright's abusive leadership, K's fantasizing about him, and the segway into the discussion over the need for them as reasonable adults in not acknowledging their encounter suggests none of them is trustworthy, especially as they wind up in bed together, and the perpetuation of abuse and violence ensues. 

The sheer number of people involved in returning the brooch and the severity of the circumstances suggests the symbolic representation spans a larger context of something more significant in retrieving something of meaning and value that was stolen. Much like the analogy of the survival skills Alex references in their climbing the four peaks. But, otherwise, their purpose in incurring the degrees of suffering is unclear. It's as if these characters are experiencing a world in which people are inherently bad as opposed to not entirely trustworthy.

K's propensity for lying, cheating, and stealing in the name of her family despite her being detached from them altogether along with the entwined affair with Cartright despite the dislike for his character erodes the trustworthiness of her mental stability beyond a lack of trustworthiness.

The description of Cartright's sloppy appearance, his disrespect of culture in using U.S. currency rather than the expected exchange, and the disparaging of one member of the group to another in the exploitation of weakness is an attempt to divide them. It shifts quickly from flamboyance to sex-induced expression. While he attacks her character much worse, she doesn't believe these accusations of her peer. Rather than defending herself, she plays along and celebrates her madness.

The story is disturbing on many levels, but worth a read in contemplating one's intentions and purpose in not only their personal mission but professional ones. Despite adverse conditions and outcomes, the emphasis on the measures one goes to course correct and how it should be addressed. It's especially important as the world shifts towards a zero trust security culture, it should not erode or destroy human relationships such that abuse and violence become social norms. While the over-simplification of the agency's account of K's actions may be accurate, it begs a deeper as to the ethics of allowing such harms to occur to a team-mate in a state of such volatility other than being expendable at catching a more nefarious group of actors.

Reviewed by

Author. Award-Winning Digital Curator and Social Entrepreneur. Obsessed with the intersection of innovation, arts, and culture. Relentless learner Always exploring - nearby trails or global treks. Grateful for my pup's constant prodding - forces me away from the computer screen.

About the author

Anna Varlese is an emerging thriller author. A Russian stuck between Brussels, Belgium, Denver, US, and Moscow, Russia. An author, a traveler, and a lunatic who loves watching people and inventing stories about them. view profile

Published on October 03, 2021

80000 words

Contains mild explicit content ⚠️

Worked with a Reedsy professional 🏆

Genre: Thriller & Suspense

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