Editor’s note: Emerald, a sequel to The Bracelet, by Jennie Hansen has just been released.  To read the first chapter and find a picture of the cover go to the News section of her web page.

Readers were first introduced to Eric and Rebekah in Wake Me When It’s Over, Robison Wells second book.  They return in The Counterfeit to a continuation of both their romance and an adventure that has already nearly cost them their lives and placed them under FBI protection as they wait for the trial of the international criminals from Wake Me When It’s Over.  

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An organization consisting of international conspirators with its roots extending back to ancient times is setting in motion a plan to level the worldwide economic playing field and they’re unconcerned about the lives that will be lost as they force their will on an unsuspecting world.

Rebekah has the misfortune of being the daughter of one of the conspirators, and Eric accidentally stumbles into the organization’s path.  Loving Rebekah keeps him there. 

When Eric is attacked and only saved from being stabbed by a book in his pocket, the agents fly into action, taking him and Rebekah into protective custody.  They’re transported to an island off the coast of Washington, where Rebekah is given first class accommodation in a lovely house while Eric is assigned a room and a shared bathroom in an old hotel.  She gets a nice car; he gets an old motorcycle.  Eric notices a number of discrepancies that make him question the way the Witness Protection Program is run. When another attempt is made on their lives, they’re moved again.  This time they learn they’re not under FBI protection, but have been kidnapped and Rebekah’s father is deeply involved.

The pair arrives in England, then France, not the usual touristy parts of Paris, but in the massive labyrinth of tunnels and catacombs beneath the city.  This experience is one of the most fascinating sections of the book.

Wells’s first book was delightfully funny.  His second was a blend of mystery and humor.  This third book is intense suspense, yet there are some wonderfully humorous lines and situations that crop up here and there, primarily because Eric is an unlikely hero.  He isn’t particularly handsome, athletic, or clever.  He’s an ordinary guy, a little naive, a little too trusting, a bit self-deprecating, and he’s very much in love with a young woman who is beautiful, rich, talented, and in his estimation much too good for him.

Eric is a particularly well-written character.  Rebekah is not as well done, but is still believable and likable.  Some of the villains are bone-chilling and so realistic, the reader begins to take conspiracy theories more seriously. 

Isabella, who is an assistant to Rebekah’s father, is another interesting character.  Her multi-dimensional role makes it difficult to pigeonhole her as one of the bad guys because we see good in her too.   The author is to be commended for his sensitive portrayal of this character.

Next to Eric, my favorite character in the book is the Catacyclist, an insane bicycle rider who spends his life riding furiously through the tunnels beneath Paris. He knows his way through the labyrinth better than anyone else and knows the secrets hidden there. His strange personality is particularly suited to his self-imposed environment and adds to the other world, sinister aura of the dark passages where he dwells.

With both believable characters and a strong plot, The Counterfeit, is one of the best releases of the summer.  When I learned that Wells was writing suspense instead of humor, I was disappointed as I find him one of the more adept humor writers, but I was not disappointed in The Counterfeit.  His versatility quickly became apparent.  His means of generating interest in the book before publication also proved his versatility as he set up an online puzzle with clues hidden in two mock conspiracy web sites.

There’s an understated thread of faith in God and loyalty to Church and family that runs through the book that is so subtle it may be missed by some readers, but in my view gives the story greater depth and realism. 

Though The Counterfeit is suspenseful and is written by a man with a male main character, this isn’t a novel that will appeal to masculine readers only.  Any reader who enjoys an exciting plot, clever dialog, and a visit to new and exotic locales will enjoy this one.  I heartily recommend it.

Published by Covenant Communications, 314 pages, $15.95