Simple Simon by Ryne Douglas Pearson
Publisher: Schmuck & Underwood
Publication Date: July 1, 1996
“He’s brilliant. Innocent. Helpless. And he’s marked for death…
It took years to develop. Cost billions to perfect. A cryptographic system so advanced it safeguards the United States’ most vital secrets. It is secure. Impenetrable.
Until sixteen year old autistic savant Simon Lynch happens upon a forgotten snippet of code, his damaged brilliance breaking the cipher with ease and unwittingly marking him for death. Soon, elements of a pathological government security apparatus are hunting him, as is a beautiful, sadistic Japanese assassin working for enemies who will stop at nothing to learn the secret locked in Simon’s mind. Only FBI Agent Art Jefferson stands between the innocent young man and these corrupt forces, putting his career, his freedom, and his life on the line to save Simon.”
I picked up this book because of its focus on an autistic teen and because I like thrillers. The autistic character was written with depth and understanding without becoming a study in how to write a “special” character. “Simple” Simon was anything but, and his key involvement in the plot was natural and engaging. Art Jefferson, the veteran FBI agent whose latest investigation introduces him to Simon, is a strong figure with the right attributes to meet the challenges presented to him. His short but intense relationship with Simon was moving and really made me care about what happened to these characters.
Simon was not the only special one in the book, however. One of the villains, Keiko Kimura, was quite mentally disturbed. Anyone who enjoys torturing another that much is in need of some serious help. Her sadistic nature was treated as just an evil manifestation, however, without any reasons for her proclivities explored to add depth. Scenes involving Keiko made me squirm, as the torture is quite graphically described.
The pacing was intense, and the plot drove forward in a way that kept me going, if not compelling me to stay up all night reading it. Some pieces detracted from the overall quality, specifically:
A paragraph describing the Chicago Field Office of the FBI is in present tense, while everything else is in past tense. This was a jarring anomaly, though not really a big deal and not repeated.
This sentence was awkward and had a redundant description of action: “Kudrow entered quickly, with some haste Rothchild noted, and planted himself a few feet away, hands folded behind his back.” (Ch. 8, p. 91 of Kindle version).
Typos increased for awhile halfway through, as if the editing/proofreading process was rushed or whoever was doing it was tired.
The analogies got a little intrusive, especially towards the end as the climax drew near. This description in particular was superflous and slowed the action down: “The whites of Sander’s eyes grew around the dark centers until they looked like plates of alabaster china with dollops of thick gravy in the middle of each.” (Ch. 21 p. 210). A nice exercise in writing but it did not serve the plot one bit. Craft and technique are great, but if you notice them instead of the plot something’s wrong.
While not inspired to read the other books in the Art Jefferson series, I enjoyed this one. If you are looking for an escapist ride, this just may be for you.
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Shaking my affie-taffy.