When two independently successful writers collaborate on a novel, their blended product is often a muddled mix falling far short of what either of them could do alone. But Sandor Frankel and the pseudonymous "Webster Mews" have almost managed to reach beyond that danger point of consensus writing with their first collaboration, "The Aleph Soution," a fast-moving tale of international intrigue.
Aleph is the first letter of the hebrew alphabet; it is also the code designation for the novel's top-secret commando team which is Israel's ultimate defense against terrorists. Just as screaming, machine-gunning terrorists have become a plague on the world's governments, they have become fiction's new universal foes, muscling out the master criminals who plagued the heroes and innocents of past decades.
However, a plague must have a face, or personification, if it is to be a successful fictional tool. To this end Frankel and Mews give us Hashim-el-Wasi, a crazed, sans-sunglasses Yasir Arafat. El-Wassi's plan is perhaps the most imeginative fictional coup of the century: "hijack" the entire United Nations General Assembly in New Youk and held it hostage while his terrorists ravage the world. The ransom: U.N.-sanctioned destruction of Israel.
And if the plague must have a face, so must its healer. Thus Israeli Colonel Avran Tal, the Aleph commander, quietly but firmly strides through the book. Tal must bypass American ineptitude, timidity and ignorance in order to figure out how to thwart E1-Wassi and his minions.
The authors lace their book with the intriguing and plausible details necessary to give some credibility to such a hold premise. Mostly they manage to forgo burdening the reader with useless trivia. Nonetheless, a bit more elaboration would enhance the novel without detracting from the swift, sure and inexorable pace essential to fuspense novels.
The book has other minor flaws. At times the authors seem to be writing down to their audience. For example, when they exaggerate the omniscience of Israeli security groups. The facts are right -- Israel has the most impressive intellignce team going -- but the effect of the presentation is glib.
Alos, one would like to know more about some of the characters. The female "lead" -- Nancy Dolby, a deputy mayor or New York about whose fate one is curious -- simply disappears near the book's end.
The worst problem, though, is the inconsistent editing. One feels that the book has had, besides two authors, the dubious benefits of several editors.
In order to insert exciting props for their plot, Frankel and "Mews" took on a typewriter-full of tricky problems, ones they needed to solve without letting the reader down. Happily, on this score the authors, like their commando Aleph teams, confront the challenges of the situation with an equally delicate and complicated solution.
The result is worth a suspense fan's time.