‘All Cry Chaos’

Cerebral, suspenseful and intricate, Leonard Rosen’s “All Cry Chaos” is a fine work of fiction that happens to involve Interpol, chaos theory, mathematics of the highest order, and an End Times Christian extremist group with terrorist spinoffs.

As the novel begins, Henri Poincaré, a 50-something Interpol agent, checks in on Stipo Banovic, a war criminal who he arrested for the massacre of 72 Muslim men and boys in Bosnia. Soon after Poincaré is sent to the site of an explosion that with extraordinary precision tore a single room off the top floor of an Amsterdam hotel room, killing James Fenster, a mathematician scheduled to speak at the World Trade Organization meetings there.

While Poincaré investigates, word comes that the Bosnian has threatened his family and though Interpol intervenes to protect them, it soon makes sense that each section of the book has a superscription from the book of Job. Henri’s subsequent pursuit of Fenster’s killers soon brings out the best and worst of the Indigenous Liberation Front, a really oily billionaire stock trader, the Cambridge police department, and Poincaré’s own beloved and crazy-making colleagues.

Beautifully well-written, with interesting and fully-developed characters, high-octane tension, elegant mathematical constructs, and human hearts that are both noble and black as the night, “All Cry Chaos” is one of the best thrillers I have ever read.

‘The Ice Balloon’

In an age when a swift and mostly painless flight over the polar regions is the default path from America to Europe, it is hard to imagine that just over a hundred years ago men were losing their way in the Arctic, freezing to death, starving and often becoming trapped in the icecap for years at a time as they sought the grail of the North Pole.

In his new book, “The Ice Balloon: S.A. Andrée and the Heroic Age of Arctic Exploration,” Alec Wilkinson tells the little-known story of a Swedish adventurer who thought to reach the Pole in 1987 in a short, swift trip by hydrogen balloon. Andrée theorized that using a system of draglines and sails, along with the customary ballast, he could “steer” a basketed balloon over the top of the world and land safely in Canada.

Andrée and his companions were prepared with sledges, a boat, and food should their balloon come down, but they never returned. The fate of the expedition remained unknown until their bodies and their journals and letters were discovered more than 30 years later.

Interwoven with Wilkinson’s descriptions of and speculations concerning the Andrée expedition are fascinating accounts of other polar explorations of the time (Greely, Nansen), as well as a discussion of all the different North Poles — geographical, magnetic, the pole of cold, etc. — as well as descriptions and names for all the different kinds of ice polar explorers gave names to while they had nothing else to do but look.

Although time eventually told what became of the Andrée Expedition, even Wilkinson’s beautifully well-written text can’t explain what drives a person to undertake such hazards.

∫ Laura Wadley is a librarian with the Provo City Library. E-mail her at lauraw@provo.lib.ut.us.