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Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite
The Indian Defense: A Historical Political Saga by Jay Perin is book five in the epic One Hundred Years of War series, preceded by The Maltese Attack, The Manhattan Swindle, The Cuban Gambit, and The Beijing Blunder. The novels in the series follow three primary families that are deeply interconnected at the crux of the heartbeat of power, money, prestige, and international affairs and have their fingers in pretty much every pot of conflict and wealth to a certain degree globally. Each book mostly represents a slice of 20th-century history and the shaping of how the world turns, based on who is handling the marionette strings du jour. The dynastic families are in perpetual danger and deadlock with no shortage of enemies, including factions of each other, world leaders, criminals, gangsters, and all those who believe they are owed a debt—payable solely in blood.
I never thought I'd find myself a little choked up while reading an action scene taking place in the prison halls of Sing Sing, or at least not to the same degree that a grieving mother giving up her son sings to him as she breastfeeds him for the last time, but Jay Perin is exceptional at forcing the most difficult choices on his characters. Those choices carry with them consequences, both good and bad, and this is what sets The Indian Defense and the whole of the One Hundred Years of War series apart. If I have one issue it is the use of sexual assault as a motivating plot driver, particularly when the woman tries [and fails] to keep it a secret to protect the fragility of her male family members. The thread of this runs through each novel but in fairness is largely part of the time period. The pacing is pitch-perfect and Perin has so thoroughly developed the characters that at this point they feel like people we know. The landscapes almost become characters themselves with Perin taking us to places like Tiananmen Square and the janky doorway in Las Vegas where a fake Elvis is standing. Very, very highly recommended.