Top critical review
This is not one of the better John Lange books
Reviewed in the United States on December 9, 2018
In the opening chapter of Scratch One, several people tangentially connected to an under-the-table arms deal between Norway, Israel, and the US are murdered on the same day in different cities around the world. A few days later an unlucky American lawyer who bears an unlikely resemblance to an internationally renown assassin is spotted exiting an airport terminal in France only minutes after a plane bomb detonates. This case of mistaken identity is about to throw the intelligence agencies of two nations and a cell of Arabic terrorists into chaos…
Michael Crichton once said in an interview the John Lange books were written to be sold at airports and to compete with in-flight movies for the reader’s attention for a couple of hours.
In this book, one of his characters “stopped at the [airport] gift shop to buy a paperbook book. He wanted something light and amusing, of no consequence.” The author was perfectly summing up his own book.
Scratch One is not one of the better John Lange novels. While it features a few exotic locales, it lacks the suspense of Binary. It does not feature any emerging motifs that would define Crichton’s later bestsellers, as did Odds On. Even the more farcical scenes are missing the campiness that made Zero Cool and Drug of Choice memorable. The one fun highlight of this novel was the climax at the Gran Prix de Monaco; Princess Grace Kelly even makes a cameo.
This is a spy novel with absurd movie logic, not book logic. Too many coincidences and conspiracies that do not make sense (Example: If the Arab terrorists kill all the arms dealers and transporters involved in an illegal shipment of guns from Norway to Israel, then the guns won’t be shipped. As if those two countries’ governments cannot find another way to get the deal done!)