"A chilling suspense tale set in Argentina"
Reviewed by Clare O'Beara
Posted January 21, 2016
Suspense | Thriller Medical
This dark, speculative suspense story begins in Argentina,
where we meet characters ranging from unscrupulous
profiteers to innocent pawns. AGAINST THE OAKS OF BASHAN -
the title comes from a Biblical quote implying that pride
goes before a fall - is set in the twentieth century,
mostly in Buenos Aires.
A girl aged twelve in 1990, Frances, suspects her
middle-class family is different from others, but she
doesn't know why. Slightly shady activity occurs, but it's
several chapters before we start to see the speculative
aspect. A nod is given to the fact many Nazis fled to
South America, and some experiments they may have run on
humans have been continued. Other people, naturally, are
just corrupt in the financial sense, siphoning money into
personal assets and Swiss bank accounts. When the end comes
for Antonio Fons the father of Frances, he flees, leaving
Mara Fons, the wife he had already left in the emotional
sense, to guard his children. Frances is perplexed that so
much should rest upon whether she finishes ordinary high
school or turns earlier for a medical school career.
We get flashbacks to 1977 when a young couple called Lucas
and Vera who worked for a medical establishment are
abducted and imprisoned in the name of the brutal
experiments. This section involves torture and can be
difficult to read. The genetic manipulation will be
appreciated by fans of Robin Cook's medical thrillers.
Mara's inexplicable rise through society and admirable
household should provide a clue to her husband's enemies
she has a source of unearned income. Only Frances
pieces the puzzle together - but will it help her to avoid
the same fate as Vera? The reader wills the gifted girl to
find a way to control her own life.
The atmosphere is strongly built from the start, and
details about life in Argentina abound. The well off sip
Earl Grey tea from porcelain cups in skyscraper apartment
homes, while the prison is rife with tuberculosis even in
1997. Acceptance of corruption is all-permeating. The
location later skips to Zurich and New Mexico. The author
Julia Starling is originally from Argentina, now living in
England. I feel her intense, gripping thriller AGAINST
THE OAKS OF BASHAN will best suit adult readers who enjoy
dark suspense stories with a conspiracy theory attached.
In 1970s Buenos Aires, with the city under military occupation, people disappear
at a terrifying rate. They are the desaparecidos, those who vanish forever.
Camouflaged by the ongoing crisis, someone abducts young adults for another goal.
These desaparecidos are used to create a compliant, easily-manipulated
Lucas and Vera Freund are among those abducted. The young couple—both brilliant
scientists—have stumbled onto a discovery that could change humanity forever. To
shield their work from those who would abuse it, they’re willing to make the
Years later, Frances Fons and Julian Haller meet in Zurich. They know nothing of
the horrors that transpired in Argentina. The two only know they’re young and in
They’re also in danger.
Someone has manipulated the sweethearts their entire lives with a singular goal
in mind. Deep in a scientific institute in New Mexico lies a secret, locked away
behind the door of a special vault—a door only Frances and Julian can open.
An engaging tale of conspiracy and control, Against the Oaks of Bashan raises a
troubling question: if your thoughts are not your own, whose are they?
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