The New Lease by John Stryder is a riveting conspiracy thriller following Fae Cunningham, who is being shadowed by a mysterious benefactor who rescued her many years before. Suffering from a history of mental illness, she follows her benefactor to the Middle East, only to find his control extends far beyond her own life. He has the power to bend minds at will.
Traveling from the halls of academia to the Persian Gulf, India, and other locales, this is a true globetrotting novel with enough cultural detail to give the novel increased depth and realism. Stryder seems to know each subject or location inside and out. Either he’s visited these places personally or done a lot of research because there is a breadth to each setting.
What separates The New Lease from other conspiracy thrillers is the quality of the writing. Though this is Stryder’s first novel, it doesn’t read that way: this is an erudite and intelligent read, a thinking person’s conspiracy thriller. Lest that scare you away by thinking it’s too heady, Stryder is also adept at dramatic pacing. A conspiracy story needs to have suspense and surprises, and The New Lease has that in spades.
The book does take some time to get going, but if you stick with it, it’s rewarding once all the pieces are in place. The ending is slightly rushed as well, and leaves some plot points hanging. Additionally, the ideas and characterizations in the novel may be a bit polarizing, depending on your political or cultural leanings. However, a conspiracy thriller is about political agendas, so a slanted perspective does give the themes in the novel some increased immediacy. It also touches on esoteric disciplines, such as tantric training – which is fascinating and informative, but it probably helps for this to be in your realm of interest. All told, Stryder is taking some chances with the ideas he’s expounding in the novel, even touching on the supernatural. This is no cookie cutter thriller.
With all the disparate elements, The New Lease had a chance to be cluttered mixture of tones. Such is not the case. What holds it all together is the narrative pull of Stryder’s lead character, as well as a sinister – and plausible – antagonist. Plausibility is key in a book like this, as it could veer to the cartoon. Some suspension of disbelief is required, but the novel is so thoroughly research that it at least works within the confines of its narrative arc, and causes the reader to ask: What if?
Overall, The New Lease is an exciting and provocative addition to the conspiracy thriller genre. Clearly, Stryder has many good novels in his future. If he spent a little more time with pacing – both at the very beginning and the very end – this would be a solid 5-star novel. As it stands now, it’s almost there, and more than enough for readers to sink their teeth into. A recommended book and a recommended author.
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