In this ninth volume of Breakfield and Burkey’s (The Enigma Broker, 2017, etc.) techno-thriller series, a covert team tracks groups who are moving information and funds using nondigital means.
The latest assignment for Julie and Juan Rodríguez’s Cyber Assassin Technology Services involves more footwork than is typical for them. Julie dispatches team members to various locales from Panama to Singapore to track “AIMs”—“analog information mules” working for a global energy company called ePETRO. The AIMs handle business transactions by word of mouth in order to subvert any digital surveillance. Marge Barger and Mike Patrick of ePETRO have good reason for maintaining secrecy, as they’re currently buying oil illegally from Muslim terrorists and selling it to the North Korean government. Julie goes undercover as a woman named Jackeline Cooper and lands a job at ePETRO’s London office, while other CATS members, including Tyler Hebert and Ernesto Gleen in New York, search for AIMs in order to record the contacts that they make. It’s not as mundane as it sounds, as information mules aren’t easy to trail. But then CATS members, including Julie, inexplicably vanish, and Juan and the remaining members must ensure that everyone gets home safely as they attempt to thwart ePETRO’s nefarious plans. By this point in their long-running series, Breakfield and Burkey have mastered the art of telling a story with myriad characters. They’ve amassed a wealth of recurring heroes, which, in this installment, generates a wide variety of storylines; CATS member Brayson Morris in Panama, for example, is apparently disenchanted and may be ready to leave the team. However, it’s the villains that steal the spotlight this time around. There’s obvious dissention among them, resulting in a string of double-crossings and scenes that brim with tension. Marge and Mike, in particular, aren’t telling each other everything; for example, a solo Marge strives to meet the North Koreans’ demand for uranium on her own. This second CATS-centric installment (after 2016’s The Enigma Gamers) will leave readers yearning for more.
Astute prose and an unwavering pace energized by first-rate characters and subplots.