As the Cold War began to wane and the threat of imminent nuclear war lessened, America and its people finally had time to focus on other parts of the world where tensions were high or foreign policy mistakes had been made. Epstein’s Pancake, the thrilling novel by Bjarne Rostaing, gives readers an incredibly realistic window into the world of espionage, political machinations, whistleblowing, and international conspiracy that surrounded the Iran-Contra affair.
While this book clearly falls in the realm of historical fiction, the level of detail makes it a highly believable political thriller featuring deeply developed characters and enough action to keep every reader engaged. Following his departure from a job on Wall Street, Rob Price takes a new position at a small governmental agency, where things are not as they seem. Perhaps it is his position as a Vietnam vet, or his formidable intelligence, but Price can’t ignore what he sees going on in the agency. When a colleague at the agency is killed, Price is literally left holding the bag, and he realizes that he might be the next one with a target on his back.
Playing into one of the most controversial topics in the modern world – whistleblowing – author Bjarne Rostaing doesn’t back away from the ethical and patriotic questions so frequently raised about the topic. That being said, the book is far more than veiled social commentary - it also delves into the truly tangled web of international espionage and the seedier side of the intelligence community. Being “in the know” is crucial to any intelligence agency, and the things that Price knows make him valuable to some and extremely dangerous to others. This gives every conversation an edge of danger and intrigue, and the overlapping layers of secrets and betrayal begin to stack up quickly.
Based in the political climate of the late 1980s, this novel moves beyond the textbook explanations of the Iran-Contra affair and delves into what was really happening in the Middle East while everyone’s eyes were locked on Russia. As an American reader, some of the revelations are shocking. The fact that this book is “historical fiction” does not diminish the power of the subject matter, nor the incredibly believable way that Rostaing paints every player.
The style of the book is consistent and rarely veers towards boring or procedural, which is easy to do in a story surrounding political policy and conspiracies at the most secretive levels of government. Furthermore, the writing is technically clean, with very few grammatical errors or syntactical stumbles. Rostaing proves that working in army intelligence and being able to write a compelling thriller are not mutually exclusive, and his diverse range of experience comes across impressively in this novel.
Although the title of this book, Epstein's Pancake, may raise an eyebrow to hardcore political thriller fans, the unpredictable twists of this intricate tale do not disappoint. When some of the most dangerous agencies on the planet are chasing down an emergent technology that could change the face of the modern world, blood will be spilled. Rostaing blends experiential fact with creative fiction to breathe fresh life and insight into one of the most confusing and dangerous times in recent history.
— 4½ Stars