The Paris Betrayal

Reviewed by:

G. Connor Salter, Professional Writing alumnus from Taylor University, Upland, IN.


The Paris Betrayal Author: James R. Hannibal

Publication Date:

May 4, 2021


Revell (an imprint of Baker Publishing Group)




352 pages


Ben Calix has been with “the Company” for years, his loyalty never questioned. But when a botched assignment in Rome reveals that someone is developing a bioweapon, Calix is suddenly thrown into the dark. In fact, as coworkers mysteriously die, it becomes clear that the Company thinks he’s more than just a failure: he’s a traitor marked for execution. With no outside resources, and a civilian in tow, Calix must uncover who set him up before they set off the bioweapon.

Hannibal has a craftman’s skill when it comes to suspense, pacing the shocks so they keep the plot going but don’t smother each other. He carefully balances plot and characters, giving techie explanations but finding ways to humanize the ideas. Since the plot involves a bioweapon that will unleash a plague, he references the COVID-19 pandemic, implying the story takes some place at a future point where the pandemic is over but everyone remembers it. This could have been a bit gimmicky, but the references are used economically so he doesn’t overplay the idea. Ultimately, they give the story an interesting extra frisson.

Perhaps most interestingly, his plot (intentionally or not) has a lot of similarities with a famous 1980s thrillers, while still being its own entity. Like Robert Ludlum’s 1980 thriller The Bourne Identity, this is a tale about a man on the run across Paris and Switzerland, a man once trusted who is now a pariah to every side, and who must take a woman along who becomes more than just a friend. One plot twist even mirrors the big twist in The Bourne Identity (which is surprising since it’s a twist that never shows up in the better-known movie version). Hannibal also share Ludlum’s need to describe the hero’s physical trials. Lots of fights happen in The Paris Betrayal, but these heroes don’t shrug off the pain. Their bodies get more bruised and broken, and near the end both Calix and his primary foe are desperately trying to hold flesh and bone together long to reach the finale. Ludlum pulls a similar trick, particularly in a scene where Bourne chases an enemy in Paris only to collapse as his exertion rips open surgical stitches, undoing months of recovery after a near-death experience.

Despite these similarities, Hannibal takes his plot and his hero in directions that Ludlum doesn’t. His book is about gaining new knowledge to continue on a path, while Ludlum’s book was about unpacking the past to take a radically new path. It also helps that ultimately Hannibal is a different kind of thriller writer than Ludlum. Ludlum had a theatrical writing style, similar to Mario Puzo’s style in The Godfather. He liked to give characters tragic backstories which figured heavily in his plots, which means The Bourne Identity is just as much about Bourne exorcising his demons as it is about the big spy game. Hannibal, in contrast, has a terse writing style more akin to Tom Clancy. While his characters are interesting, he

centers his plot on an external technological threat which (like Clancy) he carefully explains so readers feel its terrible implications. If The Bourne Identity is a psychological spy thriller, The Paris Betrayal is a techno-thriller. So, even though Ludlum and Hannibal both tell stories about betrayal and heroes who must run their gauntlets, the effect is different. He (intentionally or not) uses a similar framework, but builds his own house, and it’s quite an impressive one.

A high voltage spy adventure that will please newcomers and veterans of the genre.


Rating (1 to 5 stars)

4.5 stars

Suggested Audience

Christians who like spy thrillers with a technical aspect.

Christian impact

This reviewer noted that one of Hannibal’s recent books, The Gryphon Heist, tried to take a plot with vigilantism and manipulation, and also have protagonists who justified it in Judeo-Christian terms. Unfortunately, this just ended up seeming tacked on. Here, Hannibal goes for something more subtle. Readers paying attention will notice the plot mimics a certain Bible story, and in the third act some of the dialogue deliberately mirrors that story. It’s not terribly complex, and if one tried to read The Paris Betrayal as a one-to-one allegory it would have big problems. Still, it allows Hannibal to have Biblical echoes without trying to shoehorn Christian references into the characters.

The Paris Betrayal

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