Review of The Banjo Player by Norm Goldman
Author: Sam Yarney
Publisher: Story Bay Press
From the mystifying snippet of its prologue to its startling finale, Sam Yarney's The Banjo Player weaves a compelling spell, and as the cover of the book states: “if you can figure it all out, then you deserve to be....”
Yarney draws on recent media headlines concerning the world's financial meltdown, environmental issues and various political happenings around the globe. His protagonist, Zac Pullman is an IT wizard and genius when it comes to hacking into operations networks, and as his father Michael best describes him, “It's almost like complex computer algorithms are embedded in your neurons.”
However, before Yarney pulls us into the meat of the story, which has an extraordinary ending that it would be a betrayal to give any kind of hint of it, readers are introduced to a high powered female executive, Kimberly Piper, who is owner of her own PR firm in London, England advising oil companies as to how best to position and present themselves to the outside world on environmental issues. While entertaining one of her clients, Kimberly receives an urgent email with an attachment from a Copenhagen-based economist and a colleague of hers, Thor Rasmussen. Little did she know that Rasmussen was being watched in Lille France by someone who was using very sophisticated monitoring software. Kimberly has little luck in opening the attachment and forwards the email to her husband, who is also under surveillance. Her husband informs her that the message is encrypted but he nevertheless succeeds in getting partial results and discovers that it contains a kind of video clip.
From there the novel picks up steam and Yarney turns to Zac's father Michael, a retired Cambridge professor who has been asked by a London-based think tank and futurist outfit, The Delphi group to research and write an advisory paper titled: Shifts in global power-Which way? It was to be an analysis as to how the environment, energy, security, big business, finance, and poverty and several other themes inter-played and crafted the future. Michael divulges to Zac that very early on in his research he calculated that the issue of limited and increasingly expensive global energy resources would be a major factor in whatever he did. We also discover that about two years before Michael was given this assignment, there was a Danish fellow, Thor Rasmussen, who had completed a project similar to his and it had been code named The Thorra, which was a play on words on Thor Rasmussen's name. The name also strangely sounded very much like the five books of the Hebrew bible or the Torah. Rasmussen dies in a suspicious freak train accident a month before Michael was commissioned by the Delphi group to write his report. Is there some connection between Rasmussen's death and his project? As the plot unravels, Yarney teases us with the mysterious and violent deaths of a few individuals that have been connected to the Thor project in one way or another.
Most significantly, one of Yarney's strengths is his ability to present his readers with multiple interesting characters in challenging situations that band together in a carefully woven plot to produce a gripping yarn that includes high-tech weaponry. Readers, when reaching the conclusion, will invariably understand just how important every thread of the story was necessary to complete the intricate tapestry. In addition, Yarney, with great skill and in a unique manner, has transformed the traditional mystery novel into one that addresses a variety of important issues, as he interweaves intriguing ideas that are forced to the surface concerning accountability, as well as hard truths in a world that seems to be morally bankrupt. Insofar as dialogue and character development, he strikes just the right tone in a way that we can visualize them as having flesh and bones. I look forward to hearing more from this exciting author.
UK-based Story Bay Press is a pace-setting traditional and new media publishing firm.