'Guardian of Lies' one of year's best thrillers


  It’s no lie — “Guardian of Lies” is one of this summer’s most prolific thrillers. In fact, I consider it one of the best this year. Readers seem to agree as Steve Martini’s novel of geopolitical intrigue has climbed the ranks of The New York Times best-seller list since its release in early July.
  But don’t expect a beach read as light as the sand. It’s a high-concept drama that bounces around the Western Hemisphere and
involves a cast of characters from all walks of life. Fortunately, Martini keeps his narrative well focused and realistic, with
pulse-pounding final chapters that will keep your mind racing long after the last page is turned.
  Martini, a former newspaper reporter and attorney, has written a series of books featuring Paul Madriani, a high-profile defense attorney based in San Diego. Martini has run Madriani through a whole set of adventures, and “Guardian of Lies” might be his most dangerous yet.
  Like several authors before him, notably Nelson DeMille, Martini has taken a post-Cold War “what if” scenario and turned it into something very real. The scenario in “Guardian of Lies” involves a small Soviet nuclear weapon falling into the wrong hands and causing a potential catastrophic situation in the United States.
  Enter Madriani. He stumbles upon a case involving a beautiful Costa Rican woman, rare coins, an ex-CIA agent, a brutal assassin nicknamed Muerte Liquida (“Liquid Death”) and a conspiracy that goes back to the Cuban Missile Crisis in the early 1960s. In short, an aging Soviet scientist gets mixed up with a bunch of Colombian rebels who have connections with Muslim terrorists and Mexican drug cartels. The bad guys and the scientist have one purpose: to put a mushroom cloud over the “Great Satan” (aka America).
  But things aren’t as cut and dry as they seem. Madriani and his partner, Harry Hinds, encounter a head-scratching mystery in Del Mar,
Calif., in the murder of a successful rare coin dealer. Things only go downhill from there. They get in trouble, more people die, the feds get involved, among other things. And the Soviet scientist, trying to reunite with his family, finds dealing with a bunch of narcoterrorists to be a major headache.
  In concept, this imaginative story could’ve spun out of control, overheated with too many characters and scene changes. But Martini does a terrific job of staying focused, advancing the plot and keeping it believable. “Guardian of Lies” starts slow but the last
half is full of incredible tension. As a bonus, Martini creates characters that are worth caring about and rooting for (and against).
  The title of Martini’s book was inspired by a quote from famed British leader Winston Churchill: “In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.”
  Madriani, the good guys and even the villains find that protecting, and discovering, the truth comes at a high price.