Book Review: The Expansion by Christoph Martin + Q&A

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BW Synopsis

“In politics and big business, truth is a matter of opinion.”

In the arena of global trade and diplomacy, stakes are high, and when a senior official of The Expansion by Christoph Martin.jpgthe Panama Canal Administration is found dead, British-born geomatic engineer Max Burns, finds himself in the frame for sabotage and murder, and at the center of a web of political intrigue and betrayal that reaches far beyond the idyllic shores of Central America.

The only person Max can trust is his new-found love, beautiful Karis Deen, a scientist with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Except Karis herself holds a dangerous secret that could not only destroy Max but could change the entire balance of world power.

BW My Review

An exciting and intriguing thriller novel.

This is a story about Max, who was offered a big opportunity that he couldn’t let go; instead, he gave up everything just to grab it. But, in return, he was put on a big problem, and he only trusted Karis, a woman that hides something dangerous.

The Expansion was one of those thriller books that were entertaining until the end. The politics, the power, the betrayal, the lies, the secrets, the characters, the plot, and almost everything were great except for some things that somehow bothered me.

This novel didn’t just entertain me, but it also let me join Max on his journey. The way it was written was also good except on the first few parts, which were a little slow for me. But, those parts were not really bad because it was a back-story about Max, his life before he accepted the project offered to him.

The characters were enjoyable to meet even if there was a time when I am confused about the characters that were being introduced. You will like and hate some characters too. I am just glad that the main characters are developing during the story.

All in all, this is a good read. I am recommending this if you want to read some thrillers that also talks about politics, engineering, and more.

Disclaimer: I received a readers copy from Clink Street Publishing.

BW My Rating

Rating 4

BW Book Details

Publisher: Clink Street Publishing

Publication Date: May 2, 2017

Genre(s): Thriller

Language: English

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BW Interview

1. Why did you choose to work in this genre? Do you consider yourself a genre writer, or do you want to try other modes?

Christoph: My preferred genres have always been thrillers, conspiracy stories (Dan Brown, John LeCarré, John Grisham) and spy novels. That’s is why I guess it was a “natural coincidence” that my first novel would be in the genre I like best myself.

2. I love mystery, paranormal, and fantasy novels, and I’m also starting to like thriller and suspense now. Can you tell me more about the thriller? What do you think makes a political thriller good or bad?

Libby: I think it’s all about reader expectations! Every genre has what you could call ‘obligatory scenes’ that ideally should be included for maximal reader satisfaction. So, for example, in the Romance genre, there’s usually the meeting of the love interest and denial of love, and there’s usually also a reconciliation scene. Thrillers are a bit of a mix of genres. Shawn Coyne ( talks about thriller being a mash-up of Crime, Horror, and Action. So a thriller will often start with a crime, will have an action scene that’s tied to the hero’s central theme, will have a powerful antagonist, a fast pace, and the stakes must become personal for the hero. In political thrillers, politics are the main stage for the crime.

In The Expansion, we also have a love story embedded in the conspiracy, and this is partly what gives our story extra robustness. And characters can really drive a story, so if the characters are interesting and not just 2-dimensional, you already have a lot of compelling material for a reader. Personally, I like political thrillers where the politics aren’t too opaque or complex to follow, but it’s like a puzzle where you can’t predict the outcome.

3. How do you develop your plot? Do you outline? If so, then to what extent? How much is a surprise to you as you go?

Libby: For The Expansion, Christoph came up with the overarching direction of the story and some of the key points on the map, and elements to include. And then we sat down and ‘filled in the blanks’ so to speak. Some things we couldn’t really control, because the characters started to take on a life of their own, and we had to respect that!

4. I’d wanted to know where your character, Max Burns, came from. How do you choose his professional background? Does being a geomatic engineer important on his role?

Christoph: Max is the first name of my son, and Burns is the last name of a friend of mine in Los Angeles. As Max Burns needed to get a job at “The Expansion” of the Panama canal, I had to look for a profession that would best qualify him to put in a winning bid. And it worked: their consortium with Max Burns winning Water-Savings-Project outsmarted the competitors, and his consortium won the bid! J

5. Of all the characters in your novel, who do you think is the well-written character? Why?

Libby: ​I always like to see women who have rounded personalities and aren’t just there to serve the men’s whims or plots, so I was really happy with our women characters. Having said that, I really love the character of Alan (Max’s uncle). He took on real life of his own as we were fleshing him out, and he was such a joy to write. I actually also like Paco Roco as a character. He comes across like a really nasty piece of work but as the story unfolds you see why he’s like he is. It doesn’t mean you like him anymore, but you get to understand him a bit better.

6. Can you tell us a significant story in your life that inspires you to write the book?

Christoph: In 2014, my wife joined me to visit the beautiful boarding school “Liceum Alpinum Zuoz” in the Swiss mountains. Traveling back from there to Panama, the story with Max Burns was suddenly in my head.  I took my iPhone and started typing, and 7 hours later, I had the outline and the first two pages of “The Expansion” written down. From there on the story, initial characters came alive in my imagination – and soon new characters joined. I told the story to my family and friends who encouraged me to go to the next step and REALLY sit down and write that book.  After having joined forces with Libby, we took on the task, and two years later, we had the finished product in our hand … one of the best feelings I ever had!

7. Do you have a weird or unique routine when you are writing? If there is, can you tell us about it?

Christoph: I would not call our routine “weird,” it was more like “the key” to successfully transferring the initial ideas into a 300-page book. We discussed the outline of the next scene, kind of like designing and directing a scene on a movie set. Then Libby wrote down what we called “the asphalt,” so we could both step on it, look around and make adjustments.  It’s hard to describe, but it definitely worked for us! J

8. What is/are your favorite quote(s) from your book, The Expansion?

Christoph: “Be subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby, you can be the director of the opponent’s fate.” – Sun Tzu, The Art of War

This quote, “the book opening sentence,” describes the setting several of the characters have to deal with. They all have their secrets, and they all try to play cards in a subtle way – but not all of them will reach their goals!

9. Do you believe in writer’s block?

Libby: Not really. ​There are times when I can’t find the cohesion in my words so that makes it hard to feel like I’m making any headway, but in terms of sitting down to write, I’ve been writing for so long that my habit just takes over; I just start writing and then something usually emerges. It’s not always great, but it’s something, and that’s the point.

ChristophWe had several sessions where we left without really knowing how to resolve some of the unresolved plot points. But then, without exception, on the follow-up meetings, all responses to our questions were suddenly there… I guess if you let a story develop in your head, somewhere in your brain these plot points develop further without you noticing… it was definitely a great experience to see how all the little pieces suddenly fell into place.

10. How will you make a reader most likely read a book like yours? How will you invite them to read it?

Christoph: We are very happy that before the release of “The Expansion” May 2nd, 2017, our publisher Clink Street UK had contacted several media and book bloggers to read and review our story. In addition, we promoted “the Expansion” on Netgalley, Goodreads, Amazon, and Kirkus. In addition to the English Version in September 2017, we will release our thriller also in German language and probably in 2018 in Spanish as well.
Writing our first book, we already outlined the three following Novels of the “Expansion Series.”  You can get more details about the next books on

11. Do you have any particular message that you wanted to say to your readers and soon-to-be-readers?

Christoph: “The Expansion” is a fast-paced thriller, although we took our time to carefully introduce the various characters and their backstory in the first part of the book.  Therefore the tension and intrigue starts slowly, rises, and then explodes with a – very surprising ending!

BW About the Author

Christoph Martin is the writing team of Christoph Martin Zollinger and Libby O’Loghlin. Christoph Zollinger is a Swiss entrepreneur whose career spans the legal, military, corporate, and private enterprise. Christoph graduated with a law degree from the University of Zürich, after which time he went on to live and work in Panama in corporate and private enterprise for more than a decade. In 2012 he returned to Switzerland with his wife and children. He divides his time between his home in Zürich and a tiny Alpine village in Graubünden. Libby O’Loghlin is an Australian novelist and prize-winning short story writer who has a career in narrative media production, including film and television, as well as print and digital publishing. She has lived in the UK, USA, and Malaysia, and she now lives with her family in Switzerland.


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