The Eyes of Abel: my review

The Eyes of Abel: Daniel Jacobs

Reviewed by Fran Lewis

The beauty of Israel, the warmth coming from the sun as it is about to set and the stillness in the air are the setting for the first scene in this novel. As Roger Charlin and Maya Cohen sit together, discussing their lives, his stories and their feelings about Israel, Palestine and more, something will shake the foundation they are sitting on. The horizon and landscape will explode within seconds as bombs fill the sky, hotels and buildings collapse, a boat explodes and the world changes.

Thinking about his publication and his recent expose of Newton Oil’s corrupt practices, Charlin reflects back on his sources, his initial encounter with Maya Cohen and, even more, his feelings about Israel/Palestine. Their conflicts, his take on the situation and why he feels it has never been resolved. The Eyes of Abel answers these questions and much more as the author flashes back three months before this attack on Israel, describes another terrorist attack over San Francisco and shows what Charlin did to prove that terrorists similar to the one who got through in San Francisco can often fool security officers. But, what he learns will hopefully change things for readers and for him.

At the beginning of the novel, Roger, with the help of some of his colleagues, creates a new image for himself as an Arab traveling from America to Israel. This is part of an expose he conducts intending to bring to light how sometimes airport security is too tight, profiling certain people and singling them out for extra interviews or scrutiny based on race or nationality. What happens during his brief encounter, how and why the agent realizes he is using a fake passport and fake identity, just lets you know that the agents at El Al Israel are truly always on target. Investigating a secret energy project at Princeton we hear him speaking with his source, getting the information, and we understand just how creative he will get and how in-depth he will go to get a story and in this case the Pulitzer Prize. But, March 26, 2015 will change it all.

Trans Flight 144 goes down and the events spiral out of control as Roger Charlin immerses himself in more than just the story about racial profiling at the airport. Trying to find out more about Maya Cohen leads him to many discussions and negative viewpoints about the state of Israel. Maya relates her position, and her discussions with Charlin are heated and well informed and each side is vividly presented.

But, Roger is trying to create an article that will break open the fact that EL AL security seems to target those who are Arab or appear to be Arab. Is it politically correct to single out these people, shouldn’t everyone receive the same security clearance and why is he so concerned with Middle-Eastern people at the airport? But, meeting Maya will change it all.

Who is she and why is she really here? Within this complex plot there is much more to uncover. The Princeton Plasma Lab that has been lying dormant for so long now seems to have come to life, igniting more than just the possibility of a new energy program. Things get out of control for Charlin, as his relationship with Maya heats up when his reporter friend and mentor Ben Lampsky breaks the Princeton research wide open in an article that sets events in motion that cause lives to be lost. Israel comes into the limelight and the light shines but the truth is clouded.

Reporters, Charlin states, are supposed to report the truth and not worry who gets the story out first. Reporters, Ben states, report events as they see them, write the story through their own eyes giving the public what they want everyone to see and hear. Next, a video that has been doctored, or at least whose credibility is in question, sparks more negativity about Israel before the scientists at this lab are whisked away and hopefully back home before more lives are lost.

Project Sherwood, in Jacobs’ novel, “was a secret effort in the 1950’s during the Eisenhower administration to produce unlimited energy through fusion.” But, finding this information, taking a trip to Princeton and signing on to assist Lampsky to learn just who in the government is funding an energy program that was declassified decades ago, sets in motion catastrophic events of huge proportions. Observing several men walking dogs in the middle of the night might not trigger anything suspicious, except in this case the location is near the lab.

As the author elaborates about the program, discusses energy production, we learn more about what might be driving this program to be restarted and wonder why anyone would unleash it to the press and not protect its security. World energy would change and telling the world about it would do more harm than good. So, why did Charlin agree to find out more about the government and take the bait?

Since the TransCom 144 incident he has done nothing significant. Within Chapter Four, taking place Feb. 5, 2015, we learn about an Israeli Medical Team being killed and the details are graphically described. As his relationship with Maya intensifies, he finds out information about her that would change their fates.

Learning her real reason for being in America, knowing why she disappeared does not stop him from wanting answers and trying to find her. But not before he is interrogated by the Senate Congressional Committee when Lampsky breaks open the story about the fusion program and the possibility of an energy breakthrough.

When asked why he never filed his article about racial profiling, readers will be surprised at his response, knowing his negative views towards Israel. But, things change, perceptions differ and although he still has some misgivings about how Israel handles and responds to attacks, we see him becoming more open-minded.

As readers see Lampsky’s expose about the breakthrough at Princeton Labs and hear his words, they can decide for themselves if he intentionally endangered the scientists at the lab. Especially when they see what happens when Charlin explains Maya’s role and how this article affected the situation.

Throughout the next two chapters, Jacobs vividly presents many incidents, focusing on attacks on Israel soldiers and letting readers decide whether the reporter really told what happened or just what he or she thinks happened. We see slanted journalism in many cases, and incidents ignited by the press, with the aid of Youtube videos.

When interrogated by the State Senate Committee, Charlin realizes just who set him up, and why. His remarkable comeback and his response will impress readers. Just who in the government is pulling the strings? And why, when Charlin relates information regarding the killing of federal funding for fusion research does the tone of the hearing change?

A news bulletin relates events in Israel, global reactions and a world turned against a people just trying to live and survive! Near the middle of the book, there’s a section where we hear the voices of so many. A reporter’s vision or viewpoint of certain events and how different sectors of different countries react to the same incident. This underscores the role of media bias in shaping the Mideast conflict.

Hidden behind the walls of a nondescript building is a projector whose screen will emit slides that change the course of the world, change Charlin’s perspective about Israel and bring the fusion program to life. But, when secrecy is breached and Israel is in danger, what chance do they have? While he and Maya look bravely to the future, she formulates his next move. Will Charlin agree to the terms? Will he risk it all to help Israel, the United States, the fusion program and hopefully dismantle a war before it’s too late?

What happens next is explosive and the one person that is the key turns in different directions.

Background on Abel in the title: Abel was the second son born to Adam and Eve. Abel was the first shepherd, the first martyr in the Bible and murdered by Cain, his brother. This murder, of course, did not please God. Cain, a farmer, grew grains and vegetables and Abel was a shepherd tending the family’s herds. Brothers, who never got along, yet loved each other.

The family had to sacrifice something to God to atone for their sins. Abel was worried about making his sacrifice special to God and he offered his best lamb. Cain sacrificed crops from his garden, yet, God was not pleased with his offering. So, Cain asked his brother to walk with him and struck him down to the ground and killed him.

As with Abel, other countries see her as favored by the United States and other countries, and thus not punished for her violence and retaliation. So other nations feel justified in attacking Israeli civilians.

Cain was only concerned about getting caught and not the consequences of his actions, but they caught up to him over time. The ending of The Eyes of Abel, you might say, parallels life in the fact that we often have to deal and live with our choices and face the consequences within ourselves. What happens at the end is quite explosive, thought provoking and proves that while we teach children to think before they act, adults don’t always do the same. The description of the lattice is quite extraordinary; the events of March 26th will burn within Charlin and Maya’s, and readers’ minds forever.

Decide for yourself who is right and who needs to understand: too many Cains in the world and not enough Abels to provide the stability needed to protect everyone.

Israel is here to stay. She will not give up and In the Eyes of Abel, in the Eyes of the People of Israel, we see hope for freedom for everyone and someday peace within the Mideast and the world. This is one powerful novel that will create much discussion and controversy over the material offered. It’s definitely a must read.

Charlin and Maya: What’s next?

Fran Lewis: Reviewer



The Critical Element

Critical Element: John Betcher

When Air Force Lieutenant Michael Avery pours himself a cup of lukewarm coffee little does he know that the events that follow would wake him up faster than the caffeine in the coffee? A slow night, monitoring devices operating normally and then in flash something changed. Staring at the screen realizing what is happening Avery’s console light sup with an alert reflecting a missile launch. Could this be real? Could it be something out of the ordinary or a simple anomaly? What about a simple malfunction or is it something else? After assessing the information and getting confirmation from the Aegis Ballistic Missile Detection System, he realizes this is for real and in fact a ballistic missile was launched by believe it or not North Korea. But, would they be successful and what is the real reason for this missile launch? As the information began to filter in and the threat unfolding the room where he was working filled with numerous personnel each trying to find out the true source, where it might land and any immediate threat to a specific population. As Avery checked the altitude of this missile he began to relax realizing that the intended target Philippines was safe. But, like everything else when the all-clear signal was sounded and the danger averted we often become complacent and keep on the alert. The are nine commands in the United States Strategic Command including detachments of the North American Aerospace Defense Command and the SSN or the U.S. Space Surveillance Network each working to stop any attacks on the United States along with our allies by focusing, monitoring and “tracking air and space-based threats.” But, when things cool down and the danger had passed many thought that once again Northern Korea failed in its attempt to launch a missile. But, like everything else in life sometimes things are not always what they appear to be and the end result of this as the Korean’s stated, “weather satellite,” although some though dead, many claimed to be in violation of the United Security Council resolutions clearly aimed at “restricting the rogue states’ nuclear and ballistic missile ambitions.” But, what no one realizes that sometimes patience wins out and the end result is definitely not what anyone expects. So, where does this missile land? What happens when it reaches its optimal height? What if you were looking through a telescope and saw two things: one a missing panel and the second a perfect sphere as this thing comes tumbling down.

Rodney Holton loves to milk people for all they are worth. His many ventures are so outlandish that when he hits attorney James Becker with his latest what most would think half-baked idea, you just won’t believe what he claims he saw, where it wound up and how it might link to our missing missile. How would you react if a meteor landed right smack dap in the middle of your farm? Well, if you were Rodney you would hire a lawyer for a dollar, demand that he keep your conversation in confidence and then find a way to make money. The conversation between Rodney and Beck is priceless as you listen to his reasoning and try to follow his logic. But, there is much more. Although Rodney claims that this meteor fell in the middle of his farm, he heard it fall but never saw it. This bothers Beck and sends him to seek the advice of his close friend and Chief Deputy Sheriff Gunner. But, not before he and so many others pay Rodney twenty dollars a head just to see this thing in person.

The setting is Red Wing, Minnesota, the meteor set amid some burnt grass and the area cordoned off with tape so that it looks like a bowling ball fell from the sky. But, this would not be a mystery if everything fit into a nice neat package, and this does not. Something about Rodney’s story does not ring true, hence the visit to Gunner to discuss what is nagging at him and hopefully together they might find the answer.

Sometimes events connect and things happen that cause people to take actions that they normally would not. Kent Evans was once a prosperous veterinary pharmacist supplies medicines, vaccines and needed supplies to farmers to keep their livestock healthy. But, what happens when the economy takes dive, some decide to cut corners and preventive veterinary care is not of upmost important to farmers. Making sure their cattle remain healthy, not ordering the needed supplies from people like Kent, allows them to cut corners and hopefully keep the beef industry healthy without the services of this man. Bills have to be paid, and costs are rising and Kent Evans decides to push the envelope, think out of his dangerous box and develops a way to reignite his business but at what cost and to whom? As the story develops and you hear his plot you begin to wonder just how far he will go to increase his sales and hide what he’s doing from his family. A short trip to South Africa might solve his problem and what he manages to bring back might cause a pandemic that would not only create havoc in the beef industry but would ruin another man’s livestock and life. Infecting cows with Hoof and Mouth Disease was the mode of infection, just how you won’t believe as one man carries out his plot bringing back this strain which comes from a South African tribal farming community and getting to the United States took some great ingenuity and expert planning. Just how this all ties in and how did Kent learn more about ways to contaminate animals, the vaccines being created and more is quite interesting. Just how one “meteor,” this disease and a missile attack connects is the creation of author John Betcher in his latest blockbuster novel: The Critical Element.

Enter in FBI agent Costa and his thoughts on the meteor as we find out that it has been stolen from Rodney’s farm and the events that follow tie in the missing North Korean Missile to this meteor. Added in Rodney’s cattle comes down with Hoof and Mouth Disease and the real mystery is how they were infected and by whom. “Foot-and-mouth disease or hoof-and-mouth disease (Aphthae epizooticae) is an infectious and sometimes fatal viraldisease that affects cloven-hoofedanimals, including domestic and wild bovids. The virus causes a high fever for two or three days, followed by blisters inside the mouth and on the feet that may rupture and cause lameness. Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) has severe implications for animal farming, since it is highly infectious and can be spread by infected animals through aerosols, through contact with contaminated farming equipment, vehicles, clothing or feed, and by domestic and wild predators.[1] Its containment demands considerable efforts in vaccination, strict monitoring, trade restrictions and quarantines, and occasionally the elimination of millions of animals.” So, when Rodney’s cattle become infected with this disease what happens will deplete his herd, cause great concern and hopefully according to one man increase his income. But, there is much more as one Korean man is charged with the responsibility to take apart the missile, find out what it is comprised and make sure its contents are safely secured. Within the confines of this object the author relates is white powder mixed with another substance, which is also white. Why would anyone want to land a missile in Minnesota? What is their major plan and who is the person that wants to enact a bioterrorist attack on America soil? Is the mastermind the North Korean Dictator who expects his word and wishes to be followed without any pause for thought or questioning? With the help of his old friend Bull, his wife Beth and the Deputy Sheriff, Beck can often circumvent the rules and regulations of other agencies and get the job done himself. Two halves make a whole and the center of the missile was filled with a dangerous white powder but another powder of substance of undiluted powder needs to be found. Just what was this critical element? Millions might be obliterated if this powder finds the right breeding ground. Linking the missile to attack on Rodney’s cattle the team of experts find the cause and where the disease came from surprises them. But, would North Korea be so creative as to create this epidemic? What about the contents of the capsule?


When Beck with the help of his wife Beth learn more about the location of the man who sent two emails to the Gunner in order to get some publicity for his Hoof and Mouth Stunt, another group will try and locate the Korean man’s wife and see just how she fits into the picture. Learning more about the white powder, the fact that only half was found within the capsule and the rest was something else alerted Beck to the fact that the FBI needs to look closer at the wife and find out where the other half of the white powder is and when and where would the threat take place.


What about a huge Mall to set up a chain reaction that would go unnoticed for a while until people got really sick? What about trying to contain whatever this substance was in without causing a commotion? When Beck and Bull narrow down the distance between them and the possible threat it takes a whole army plus the FBI to complete the task, bring it under control and hopefully get those involved. While they are at one end of the state Gunner and his rookie cop Kyle are at another hopefully stopping Kent before he completes what he hopes would help increase his veterinary medical supply business. As Beth is his computer encryption expert, Gunner takes matters into his own hands to get one man so desperate that he was willing to risk more than must the lives of some livestock.


An ending that will keep you guessing at they race the clock to stop two terrorist attacks from happening but will they get there in time. Just what is the critical element that ties both of these cases together? I have it figured out but the answer is classified and limited to those with clearance. So, in order to find out what happens you will just have to read this novel for yourself. Critical Element: One outstanding novel filled with surprises, twists, turns, Beck’s special brand of sarcasm and humor and characters that you definitely want to meet again. What is next for Beck, Beth and the rest? Only five star author John Betcher has the answer and he’s not giving anything away at this time.


Fran Lewis: reviewer