A breakneck debut thriller that fuses elements of sci-fi and espionage fiction.
When Jason Bryant, a studious 25-year-old Philadelphian working toward an MBA degree, is mugged in an alleyway and inadvertently kills his assailant in self-defense, his life is changed forever. The dead man turns out to be a member of Acies, an “enduring and international crime organization that has eluded police and FBI investigators for centuries.” With an organization of five million members out to kill him, Jason is described by another character as “like Salman Rushdie…given a death sentence by the Ayatollah Khomeini.” He decides to do the unthinkable: to find the head of Acies and beg for his life. Partnered with private investigator Teri Knoebel, whose father was killed by an Acies member, Bryant realizes quickly just how difficult his mission will be: Acies has infiltrated every major law enforcement agency in the country, and anyone with useful information about the organization ends up dead. The duo’s search leads them to a remote West Virginia mountain where they find a reclusive scientist working on a groundbreaking device that radically increases the intelligence of babies in utero. Acies wants this technology, and is willing to do anything to get it. The novel has many fine elements, including unique, first-person narration from a computer’s point of view, as well as exceptional character development and relentless pacing. However, the story pushes the envelope too far near the novel’s end, which may shatter readers’ willingness to suspend their disbelief; for example, Bryant completes maneuvers that would make a Navy SEAL envious, when he should barely be able to walk. Such details unfortunately cross the line between believability and incredulity.
A thriller that offers an entertaining roaster-coaster ride until it goes off the rails at the end.