Reviewed by Wayne Turmel.
The Whistleblower’s Concierge is the third installment of Janet Feduska Cole’s History, Mystery, and Stamps trilogy. It is the ambitious story of a young female adventurer and journalist, Elyse, who is seeking the answers to a mystery that goes back to WWII and finds herself attempting to help a government whistleblower escape the country. Chased by a determined, unscrupulous bounty hunter and government agents, she struggles to get the young man out of the country to safety while uncovering clues central to the series’ larger mystery: the location of valuable stamps lost to the Nazis.
As the chase proceeds, Elyse is faced with burning questions. Is the Whistleblower who he claims to be? What will saving him mean for her own fate? Maybe most importantly, will she ever solve the puzzle of the Lunersee Stamps before it’s too late?
Assisted by a cast of unusual characters from her previous books, the author’s adventure takes us to Chicago’s Field Museum, Bolivia, the Allagash Wilderness of northern Maine, Halifax, and finally to an eerie Swiss chateau. There, one mystery is solved, but another (presumably for future tales) is uncovered.
Cole raises many intriguing issues, ranging from the ethics of whistleblowing to an alternative history of the Knights Templar and the nation of Switzerland. In many ways, she’s working in the tradition of Dan Brown and others who use ancient symbols and history to educate while telling a modern adventure tale. Unfortunately, her desire to give us lots of excellent, carefully researched information sometimes gets in the way of good story telling.
A thriller like this requires breakneck pacing and natural dialogue. Much of the dialogue in The Whistleblower’s Concierge does a good job of giving us information and exposition, but serves more as exposition than true character development or insight into motivation. As writers say, there is more “tell,” than “show” here. That’s unfortunate, because there are the bones of an exciting, interesting story here, they just get buried in the detail and plot development. Additionally, there are some “point of view” discrepancies that often jar the reader from the moment, just as things are getting exciting.
Patient readers will find a story unlike any they’ve read before. The heroine is brave and resourceful, the philatelic themes certainly haven’t been covered in other thrillers, and there are some theories about modern European politics sure to raise eyebrows. The book even includes several recipes in the back for meals the characters ate during the book. Dan Brown never did that.
If The Whistleblower’s Concierge fails to live up to its ambitions, it’s because my expectations were set very high. The research that goes into Cole’s work is evident on every page, sometimes to the detriment of the action and character development that make this genre so popular.