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Rock Paper Tiger (An Ellie McEnroe Novel) Hardcover – June 1, 2010

3.9 out of 5 stars 103 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Ellie Cooper, the heroine of Brackmann's electrifying debut, is an Iraq War vet trying to forget her past while bumming around the fringes of the Beijing art world. Having been ditched by her husband, Trey, a former army interrogator now working in China as a private security consultant, Ellie has drifted into a relationship with the artist Lao Zhang, as well as into a fog of Percocet and ennui in order to escape her memories of Iraq. After Zhang disappears with a mysterious Uighur, Ellie becomes a person of interest to U.S. and Chinese authorities, and soon Ellie's evading goons and cops, getting information from Zhang's friends via a massive multiplayer online game, and flashing back to her experiences as a combat medic at an Abu Ghraib–like detention center. The China scenes are fast paced and strikingly atmospheric, and Ellie's backstory—her and Trey's return from combat is tough, sad, and endearing—is given in doses that perfectly complement the central action. Given the high-octane leadup, the ending is a bit of a letdown, but the book's exotic setting and tough heroine will definitely appeal to fans of John Burdett and Stieg Larsson. (June)
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From Booklist

Brackmann’s debut deftly mixes modern China, the Iraq War, and online gaming, an unusual combination that manages to work. Iraq vet Ellie Cooper is making a new life for herself in Beijing, living with friends in an unsanctioned artists’ village on the outskirts of town. A chance encounter with an Uighur (Turkish ethnics living in China) sets in motion a baffling series of events in which Ellie is pursued by American and Chinese agents. Not sure whom to trust or where to turn, Ellie finds that she is able to communicate safely using a relatively unmonitored online role-playing game. Ellie’s story of her time in Iraq and the reasons she initially came to China are revealed in chapter-long flashbacks interspersed with the main story; taken together, the two narrated strands constitute a fast-paced and engaging story as both plots are full of mystery and suspense. Although the ending falls a bit flat, the tension up to that point is sustained superbly, and the characters are full-bodied and engaging. Good reading for anyone interested in the international crime novel. --Jessica Moyer

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Product Details

  • Series: An Ellie McEnroe Novel (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Soho Press; First Edition edition (June 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1569476403
  • ISBN-13: 978-1569476406
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (103 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,272,193 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ellie Cooper wasn't supposed to see those things. Not all those years ago when she was a military medic in Iraq. Not today in her sometime-lover's apartment in Beijing. They were accidents, but now something she saw has Ellie on the run for her life, pursued by a plethora of shadowy, alphabet-soup-initialed agencies.

In this action-packed suspense thriller, war veteran Ellie Cooper has been stumbling through life--literally and figuratively--since her tour of duty in Iraq left her with a damaged leg, a faithless husband, and a desperate need to figure out what to do with the rest of her life. The problem is, if she can't first figure out what her pursuers want from her, the rest of her life may be counted in minutes.

Underlying the breakneck pace of this page-turner is an extraordinary attention to detail, lush, savory descriptions, and the occasional wry humor that make Ellie and her world-view deliciously three dimensional.

The scenes in Iraq are gritty, dark, and gut-wrenching. Just as the author writes about the Iraqi desert wringing every drop of moisture from the human body, so the author's words wring every drop of emotion from the reader.

But it is in the action in China where the author truly shines. Ms. Brackmann has travelled and worked extensively in that country, and her love for it--and her acknowledgment of the practical realities and darker underbelly of that enigmatic place--are the true strength of this book. Her understanding of the massive geopolitical and economic force that is China is amazing. Yet, like the artist whose life and work is the at the heart of Ellie Cooper's world and this book, Ms.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An unusually poignant thriller, Lisa Brackmann's debut novel, Rock Paper Tiger, follows twenty-something Ellie Cooper as she struggles to both find and lose herself in modern-day China.

Still bearing the scars of service to her country in Iraq, the young American is drifting along the edges of a Beijing artists district when scary men in suits come looking for her sometimes-boyfriend Lao Zhang. But Zhang has disappeared, leaving Ellie to dodge dangerous adversaries while seeking the truth about Zhang's activities, her continued freedom, and insight on what she needs to reclaim her lost happiness and direction in life.

Because the story is told through the eyes of a young American, readers can experience urban China through fresh eyes. Woven throughout this story are countless incredible details that make the tale come alive, particularly for those who have never visited modern China -- complete with coffee bars, fast-food joints, and online gaming communities where the players and stakes can be just as deadly in real life.

A terrific, engrossing read, this is a book that will stick with you for some time.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm a writer but not of book reviews. Those who have written before me about this book have said it more elegantly than I can, and I agree with their comments.

I am also a reader, and I know what I like, and I loved this book. I particularly love the main character who's thrown into a number of situations that are way above her pay grade and how she weaves her way through spies and governments and mysteries while at another level deals with personal issues of her own.

The book made me:

a) Want to go to China
b) Not want to join the government, any government
c) Read Ms. Brackman's next novel.
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I wonder about some of the Amazon reviewers. Do the ones who write often, and glowingly, of the majority of the books they review get free copies to review? A large discount? In other words are they putatively in the employ of Amazon? The reason I ask is because more than a few of the five star reviews I've read of books I then purchased have been written by "old hands", that is, reviewers who review books more often that not..and they seem to give five and four star reviews more often than not; and their reviews invariably seem to end up at the top of Amazon's list.....understandable, of course, but fair.

ROCK PAPER TIGER is such an example. It's undoubtedly a work grounded in the author's China experience; as such, it's wonderful. The atmosphere, characters and story lines are well drawn and quite interesting. But the story suffers. It doesn't reach a conclusion in re the the book's central question: What the hell is going on and why is the protagonist being hounded so? I wish it had. It bore so much promise. But as it is, it's like a play without a climax.
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Lisa Brackmann's debut novel is a compelling read with an great premise - a war damaged army medic caught up in a tangled web of events in an enigmatic, fascinating country. Brackmann's knowledge of China extends far beyond the superficial, glossy pictures painted by tour guides. Her knowledge of life beyond the tourist attractions shines through in this book. It's been a long time since I've traveled in China, but her descriptions brought all the memories back. It's almost worth reading this book for Brackmann's portrait of modern China alone. But, on top of this, there's a tough, cynical, snarky main character and a plot which keeps the reader hooked and emotionally involved. The transition between Ellie's adventures as she's chased across China and her experiences in 'the Sandbox' and after, are seamless. It's clear that Brackmann has done her research and, combined with effortless writing, Rock Paper Tiger shines.
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