cover image The Fourth Order

The Fourth Order

Stephen Frey. Ballantine Books, $24.95 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-345-48064-4

A less than credible scenario undermines this stand-alone thriller from bestseller Frey (The Power Broker). Michael Rose, chief financial officer for Trafalgar Industries, wants to acquire CIS (Computer Information Systems), which provides its services to a secret government program, I-4 (for the Fourth Order of Immunity). Since the day after 9/11, I-4 has had wide license to detain and torture anyone with suspected terrorist connections, including U.S. citizens. Rose, who faces opposition allied with I-4 on the Trafalgar board, must also deal with a number of personal challenges; for starters, the police suspect him of murdering his unfaithful wife. Rose is strangely unsuspicious when a beautiful young woman throws herself at him, despite signs that she's part of an effort to set him up. Frey doesn't supply enough plausible detail to support his paranoid vision of an America where even the innocent disappear without trace into secret facilities. Some readers may find the cabal's true plan, when revealed, too far-fetched to swallow.