Set in the near future, this thriller pits an engineer against a sinister Chinese plot to destroy America’s economy.
It’s 2020, and systems engineer Jack Conway has just lost his job. A Chinese conglomerate has purchased his Seattle employer, Prestige Industries, and Jack’s position is outsourced. On his last day at work, Jack discovers one of Prestige’s Chinese consultants, Marvin Chen, injured and barely alive. Chen implores Jack to find his brother and then whispers something bizarre about dangerous government agents. At first, Jack attributes it to the ramblings of a delusional man, and he tries to put the incident behind him. He finds another job at an American manufacturing company, but then unexpectedly receives a curious phone call from Chen’s brother, Jonny, who claims to be a former Chinese Communist agent. Jonny reveals details of a Chinese government plot to disrupt American manufacturing and throw the United States into economic chaos. Suddenly, Jack is plunged into the pages of a spy thriller as he seeks to stop Chinese agents from realizing their plan while simultaneously trying to stay one step ahead of the men who want him dead. Though Reutlinger’s concept is certainly intriguing, especially considering America’s current dependency on China, the idea of the Chinese government completing cutting off trade with America to bring the country to its knees politically and economically is slightly farfetched. Likewise, Jack’s impulsive decision to tell his new boss, Linda, about the entire conspiracy is hard to believe as is her eagerness to become involved in the sordid mess. Plot issues are resolved a little too conveniently and some simply ring untrue (Marvin’s personnel file is on Jack’s computer despite Jack having nothing to do with human resources). Too much back story clogs the pacing and the reader is forced to plow through unnecessary details to get to the meat of the story. Still, Reutlinger knows how to ratchet up the tension, and Jack is a likable hero, though his decision-making skills leave a lot to be desired.
An original premise but one that doesn’t quite make the mark.