Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Keith Thomson's "Seven Grams of Lead" (Anchor, $7.99) is one of the more sophisticated and slick spy thrillers I've read in ages. The plot has enough believability to be disconcerting and the high tech details are fascinating. Russ Thornton is a Washington-based writer who investigates the big stories. When one of his Capitol Hill sources is murdered and soon after Thornton discovers a transmitter implanted under his skin, a chase is on to uncover who's spying on whom and why. Despite knowing a lot about tradecraft and technology, Thornton isn't always a step ahead. At one point he's a victim of extraordinary rendition (these torture scenes gave me shivers). Thornton may have been the wrong guy to bug, but who the right guys are in this twisty techno-thriller are not completely clear until the final pages.—Carole E. Barrowman
Chicago Tribune: There are, very roughly speaking, two types of spy novel. There's the cerebral, all-too-human type, where the excitement is in inflection and tone. Lives hinge on bits of seemingly banal conversation, misdirection, psychology, cups of tea. Things aren't black and white — they're cynically gray. Think John le Carré's George Smiley or Eric Ambler's naïve, accidental heroes. Then there's the outsized cartoon type, in which espionage revolves around techno-wizardry and body engineering, judo and motorcycle chases. Good guys defeat bad guys. Think James Bond or Jason Bourne. The first is the more realistic, and, for that reason, ultimately the more thrilling; the second is insubstantial as an Oreo — probably bad for you, but yummy.
Keith Thomson mingles the types with an expert sense of irony. His protagonists — an alcoholic who likes the ponies but can't pick a winner, a political blogger — are ordinary people unwittingly mixed up in conspiratorial fantasias. But they are eventually called upon to deploy nano-tech insects or bring down a helicopter with a few beer cans, some deodorant and a pingpong ball. Thomson has as much fun with genre tropes as Sigler does, but there's more than mixology at stake in his third novel, "Seven Grams of Lead."
The title refers to Stalin's supposed quip about how to solve a problem (some sources put it at eight or nine grams) — the sort of trivia you'd expect a political nerd like journalist Russ Thornton to know. So when a rogue government agent assassinates a scientist working on a secret weapon with a bullet weighing exactly seven grams, Thornton finds it a little too cute. He begins sniffing around, which, of course, makes him a target, along with his old flame and a wealthy bombshell whose promiscuity recently cost her a Senate bid.
The wonderfully over-the-top shenanigans that follow are catnip for the Bourne crowd, with subcutaneous implants, listening stations, dead drops, black sites, gunplay, double agents, naval battles, countersurveillance hocus-pocus and gadgets galore. And the human intelligence is even more captivating. I'll take good dialogue over exploding pens any day, but Thomson doesn't ask readers to choose.—Michael Robbins
Winnipeg Free Press: Now here's something you don't see every day: a paperback original that's as good as, or even better than, many books that appear in hardcover. Keith Thomson's 7 Grams of Lead (Anchor Books, 446 pages, $10) is a gripping thriller in which a journalist uncovers a top-level government conspiracy whose orchestrators will stop at nothing to keep hidden.
Sure, it sounds like pretty standard stuff, but Thomson attacks the material with such gusto that he makes it feel fresh. Russ Thornton, the intrepid Internet blogger, is a nice twist on the standard-issue fearless journalist character, and the author packs the book with so many seemingly authentic details about top-secret surveillance technology, weaponry and espionage that it's easy to imagine he's a veteran intelligence operative (instead of a former semi-pro baseball player and a talented newspaper editorial cartoonist). With a conspiracy plot worthy of a Jason Bourne novel, and stylistically superior to anything Bourne's creator, Robert Ludlum, ever wrote, the book is a must-read for fans of action thrillers.—David Pitt