An astonishingly bad book, Ken Follett's "The Third Twin" just may be the worst novel I have ever read by an author whose work I generally enjoy.
Driven by coincidence, filled with laughable dialogue and given to railing against straw men, "The Third Twin" is a failure at every level.
Jeannie Ferrami is a researcher at prestigious Jones Falls University (a generic Ivy League-type place). She is trying to isolate genetic causes for aggressive crime. Her interest in genetics is also spurred by a family tendency toward Alzheimer's disease.
When a close friend is raped, Jeannie is shocked when the victim identifies one of her test subjects, Steve Logan, as the assailant. Logan, a hunk Jeannie is attracted to, happens to be the genetic twin of Dennis Pinker, a convicted serial murderer.
DNA tests from the rape are identical to both Dennis, who was locked up, and Steve, who was in the area. Jeannie can't believe it was Steve. Could there be a third twin?
Ah, yes. All three men happen to be the creation of Berrington Jones, the university president and Jeannie's boss. (Is it a small world, or what?)
Jones, who was once in charge of a Cold War project to genetically breed the perfect warrior, now is running for president on a platform of social Darwinism that would make David Duke wince.
Can Jeannie foil this evil plot? Or will America be ruled by a neo-Nazi who makes no bones about his beliefs? Is it possible that anyone can read over 400 pages of this nonsense and still care?
Other than the obvious problems of coincidence, there is not one believable character in "The Third Twin." Follett is at his worst when trying to duplicate American girl-talk. He is given to throwing in American idiom at the most inappropriate times.
But his attempts at social commentary are even more laughable, if not offensive.
Jones is obviously supposed to be Follett's amalgam of Pat Buchanan and H. Ross Perot. But his rantings would get him a spot on Jerry Springer wearing a sheet, not on Larry King wearing a tie. To propose that a significant chunk of the electorate would listen to this guy is insulting.
Another clue that Follett knows nothing about the current United States is the crude way a rape victim is handled by the cops. A woman assaulted in a campus basement gets treated like she "took the wrong man to bed" - then the cop isn't even reprimanded. Follett has been reading 30-year-old feminist tracts instead of talking to modern officers.
And I won't even get into the notion that a "right-wing extremist" is the president of an Ivy League school.
"The Third Twin" - a hybrid of the worst of Robin Cook and Oliver Stone - is billed as Follett's first modern thriller since the end of the Cold War. But so what? The Cold War was never Follett's strong suit, anyway; World War II is.
Follett needs to find some historical Nazis for his heroes to trade gunfire with instead of dueling press events with imaginary modern ones - and he should do it posthaste.