Long’s debut novel fuses thriller-style writing with an examination of wealth inequality.
The book opens with the memorable image of a group of divers interacting with a whale shark off the coast of Australia. They’re all wealthy finance executives, and it turns out that their days are numbered: the male members of the group soon inexplicably collapse and die. Their yacht is put under quarantine, and Perth-based detective Kate Carter is brought on the case. It quickly becomes apparent to her that the deaths are part of a massive coordinated assault on white-collar criminals, and Kate soon joins an international effort to identify the killers. This sleuthing portion of the plot is fast-paced and tense, and readers will likely have difficulty putting the book down as Kate strives toward understanding. After the killers and their ideology are revealed, Kate becomes involved in their capture. One weakness of the plot, however, is the author’s tendency to describe world events by having characters watch TV for long stretches. Otherwise, though, the prose is pleasantly readable. Characters conform to stock types: no-nonsense female cop, career-minded CIA agent, hedonistic billionaires, and so on. The book seems more concerned with plot than character development and sometimes resembles a fascinating examination of wealth and social change. A major flaw, though, is its blasé attitude toward death; at one point, a sniper feels “as little hesitation about killing” his billionaire target “as he would have about shooting a rabbit for his supper.” It’s certainly legitimate to depict such violence in thrillers and other fiction, but here, the sympathetic awareness of wealth inequality is paired with an ethically flat, blanket acceptance of the righteousness of killing, and this dissonance makes it difficult to engage with it. This is a shame, because the novel’s premise opens up intriguing moral questions; at times, readers may find themselves unsure of how to feel—a mark of good fiction.
A tensely written tale of class conflict that can’t transcend its flat characters and uncomplicated agreement with violence.