In Simon’s debut thriller, a corporate CEO takes over a gambling and loan-sharking operation from his murdered brother.
Michael Nicholas, CEO of Gibraltar Financial, has done his best to steer clear of his brother Alex’s illegal business and shady cohorts. But when his brother is gunned down, his widow, Donna, needs Michael’s expertise to help collect his loans, pay a $700,000 debt to a bettor, and find another few million dollars that Alex has stashed. It’s no walk in the park: The bettor, a thug appropriately named Sharkey, demands his payment while boasting about how he could kill Michael in a public place. However, Michael might be able to find some answers by using technology that Alex left behind: an artificial intelligence, patterned after his brother’s image and personality, that’s been contacting Michael with cryptic messages. Soon Michael becomes obsessed with handling Alex’s operations and begins shirking his CEO duties, but it turns out that the AI can assist with the business. Simon’s novel has elements of a mystery, as there are other murders, a kidnapping and threats against Michael and his wife, Samantha. However, Michael is more a financial manager than an investigator, and the mystery unravels mostly on its own. Still, even when Michael isn’t actively looking for clues, the story gleefully offers an array of suspects: Alex had two ex-wives and a hairdresser lover, Jennifer—who was also having sex with a French movie star. Simon keeps the plot’s technological aspects simple, never explaining exactly how the AI works. At times, Simon does this cheekily, as when Jennifer says that Alex upgraded a laptop by having “these really smart people customize it or something.” The story also takes nerve-wracking turns; during a terrifying home invasion at Michael and Samantha’s house, for example, a murderer tells them point-blank: “I’m going to kill you.” Some mysteries remain unresolved at the end—including at least one murder—but a planned sequel should placate frustrated readers.
A fine technological thriller that only gets better as it goes along.
Pub Date: Dec. 9, 2013
Page count: 400pp
Review Posted Online: April 16, 2014
In Simon’s latest series thriller, two brothers take on a powerful neo-Nazi organization that uses stolen artificial intelligence in its quest for world domination.
Years ago, Alex Nicholas was gunned down while having dinner in a restaurant. However, thanks to artificial intelligence software that he helped to create, he finds a way to continue his existence in the cloud—as a realistic, nearly sentient facsimile of his living consciousness. His brother, Michael, now the head of Alex’s company, Tartarus, finds solace in this version of his brother and talks to him regularly through a computer interface. Unfortunately for the Nicholas brothers and for the rest of the world, Monsignor Kurt Schlegelberger and Claus Dietrich, members of the Neo-Nazi Free Forces Party, get hold of Alex’s technology and aim to use it to fulfill their goal to “finish what Adolf Hitler began.” Fortunately, the United States government enlists the help of Michael and Alex to stop them. Over the course of this action-packed story, Simon, the author of Death Logs Out (2019), employs prose that’s potent and detailed. He also seamlessly weaves in side plots, including one involving Michael’s former bodyguard/lover, which manage to work even when they’re not particularly necessary to the already busy story. Michael is the de facto protagonist, but Alex is more likely to pique readers’ interest. The chapters effectively veer among the actions of various players, from Michael and Alex’s conversations in Westport, Connecticut, to President Harry O’Brien’s conversations with his security team in Washington, D.C., to a hijacker’s actions as he commandeers a plane and aims to fly it into the White House. The plot does lose some momentum in the middle, however, as characters’ conversations become a bit repetitive.
An engaging and often lively novel.
Page count: 338pp
Review Posted Online: June 25, 2020
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