Pretense – Imbroglio Trilogy (Volume 1) by John Di Frances


Reviewed by Timea Barabas

PretensePretense by John Di Frances is a gripping thriller set on the backdrop of our current political turmoil. This first book of the Imbroglio Trilogy prepares the stage for the reader by offering generous descriptions on multiple levels from a rather personal presentation of the main characters to a peek into international relations and affairs. However, this does not imply the least bit that the novel is dominated by descriptions, since in reality, it is quite action-packed. So, the reader is offered a front row seat by the author to a series of assassinations and also an international manhunt.

The story is presented on two main fronts; on one side we have a group of assassins, while on the other, an international team of special investigators. In this sense, the reader is truly privileged, since he can glimpse into both sides. It all starts in Bratislava with an apparently lazy day of a glamorous American couple. However, a drastic turn of events soon takes place. The Slovakian Prime Minister dies in a car explosion and he is only the first victim. Shortly after, the Prime Minister of Poland is assassinated while watching a game in a crowded football stadium. While the modus operandi differs greatly, the setting and also the method to murder are all very different. Still there seems to be a common thread connecting these incidents.

A specialized task force is soon put together consisting of members from different countries and covering a great variety of expertise. Also, since the assassins seem to be traveling a lot, they are forced to cooperate with a number of other national security organizations or police departments. In fact, as it will turn out, the case expands well beyond European borders. While the main investigation team proves itself efficient in finding clues that lead back to those they hunt, the catch itself proves to be quite a challenge, as the assassins continue to slip through their fingers.

What is noteworthy in John Di Frances’ approach is that although it should be clear according to moral standards which group of people represents the good, and which the evil, the lines appear to be blurred. Readers can easily find themselves intrigued, if not even rooting for the assassins, as they are presented with their backstories, weaknesses, dreams and aspirations. While they are professionals in their trait and undoubtedly have become cold-blooded killers, they also share moments of vulnerability. On the other hand, the members of the investigation team are also quite likeable, as they are more than just bureaucrats. Rather unexpectedly perhaps, their playfulness and humor easily wins over anyone. It is not a typical modern fight between good and evil, but between and for humanity.

Therefore, John Di Frances’ orchestrates a thrilling international chase making Pretense an easy to read, fast-paced novel. However, the book can also serve as a surface of reflection for modern and indeed, future, political affairs. So, beyond being simply an enjoyable read, it might hopefully entice the readers to a political debate of the current chapter in our lives.