Review: Open Source by M.M. Frick

M.M. Frick, an active duty Naval officer who has traveled the world’s geo-political landscape, has written an enjoyable thriller from an unconventional perspective. The main characters are a vending machine stocker in Savannah, Ga. – a self-described “nobody” – and a sharp intelligence analyst working for a high-powered consulting firm in New York City.

The two cross paths when Casey Shenk, the vending stocker everyman who mulls over international political puzzles on his blog as a hobby, writes about a hijacked Russian ship in the Baltic Sea. The ship turns out to have stolen missiles on board – something Susan Williams, the analyst, is investigating but that Shenk has already figured out.

Williams contacts Shenk because of his uncannily accurate assumptions, arrived at just by using “open sources” on the Web. While Shenk’s blog brings the two together, it also attracts the attention of someone from St. Petersburg, Russia, who posts a threat on Shenk’s blog to back off.

Although the book starts off a little slow – Frick did a lot of research on how a vending machine deliveryman does his job, and proves it by inserting a lot of details – it picks up steam several chapters in, and halfway through the book, the reader can visualize Open Source as a taut thriller on a movie screen.

The story tumbles along, making smart connections along the way, inviting the reader to think like the blogger, Shenk. The plot puts together pieces of the international puzzle – Russian missiles, rogue Iranian military leaders, Israeli machinations and an outlying plotline about a lone Arab man’s need for revenge – until they fit perfectly in a breathless conclusion.

Highly recommended for fans of Barry Eisler’s “John Rain” series of thrillers.