A cyberattack tale that’s superb as both a continuation of a series and a promising start in an entirely new direction.

The Enigma Gamers

A CATS TALE

From the Enigma series , Vol. 7

In this spinoff of Breakfield and Burkey’s (The Enigma Always, 2015, etc.) techno-thriller series, someone’s hacking companies and places with automated services and demanding ransoms.

Julie Rodríguez plays her part in family-run information/security organization R-Group, but her latest job is being handled by her own Cyber Assassin Technology Services. CATS is keeping an eye on a number of hacked computer systems and corresponding demands for money. There may be a pattern, as each incident involves tampering with an automated process. The Consortium of mines in Australia, for example, loses control of its digital mining equipment, while U.S. airline Fast Flyers’ fully automated flight service confronts problems like a website erroneously promising free travel. Julie and her pilot husband, Juan, dispatch CATS members around the globe, including Brayson Morris, who’s in Spain to help Baby Perez, mayor of the ultramodern, digitized Smart City. Meanwhile, the persons behind the cyberattacks are, it seems, little more than gamers—Russian Dmitry Vasnev and Chairman Chang in Macau, China—engaged in a serious competition on their respective supercomputers. The CATS team tries to regain access to the machinery or networks but is encumbered by people’s willingness to abide by the hackers’ ultimatums. Julie and company race to track the source as the ransom deadlines approach. The authors wisely chose cyberassassin Julie as a focus, as she’s one of the series’ best characters. Though it’s a bit disappointing that she doesn’t get more of the spotlight, the story provides excellent coverage of the hacked systems and the team’s varying degrees of success—one business pays the ransom and effectively terminates its contract with CATS. An unmistakable distinction from preceding books is evident, primarily a lighter tone. There’s concentration on Julie and Juan’s intimacy, for example, as well as relative distance between Dmitry and Chang’s game and its real-world consequences. Still, grim events build anticipation; a crew’s work on nonoperational vehicles proves lethal, and even Juan faces trouble, with his plane losing a battle with a hijacked drone. Readers returning to the series will appreciate recognizable faces, while the authors’ comprehensive back story gives newbies a warm welcome.

A cyberattack tale that’s superb as both a continuation of a series and a promising start in an entirely new direction.

Pub Date: March 8, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-946858-15-3

Page Count: 310

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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This is fast-paced, nonstop fun. Cussler fans will gobble it up.

JOURNEY OF THE PHARAOHS

Rumors of lost Egyptian treasure spark high adventure in this 17th in the NUMA series featuring oceanographer Kurt Austin and his crew (Sea of Greed, 2018, etc.).

Over 3,000 years ago, grave robbers sail away with loot from a pharaoh’s tomb. In 1927, Jake Melbourne and his plane disappear in his attempt at a trans-Atlantic flight. In the present day, arms merchants known as the Bloodstone Group have taken to stealing antiquities. They are looking for a “treasure both vast and glorious” that hieroglyphics say was shipped down the Nile and out of Egypt, perhaps even west across the Atlantic. (Holy scurvy! That must’ve been a lot of hard rowing!) The criminals are known to MI5 as “very dangerous people" and "merchants selling death.” Perfectly willing to kill everyone in their way, they are aided by mechanical crows and Fydor and Xandra, nasty sibling assassins jointly called the Toymaker. Such are the foes faced by Austin and his team from the National Underwater and Marine Agency. Of course, Austin has no interest in profit; he will gladly leave the ancient riches wherever they are. Action arrives early and often, and the failed pre-Lindbergh flight fits in neatly. Cussler and Brown concoct a nifty plot with disparate, sometimes over-the-top twists that will make even hardcore adventure fans say “Wow!” Expect claustrophobic gunfights, aerial combat, a life-threatening flood, messages from the dead, coffins of gold—and a vintage classic car, because why not? “We’re going to steal the greatest deposit of Egyptian treasure the world has ever known,” brags the evil mastermind. But he’ll have to climb over the series hero’s dead body first, which—no plot spoiler here—ain’t gonna happen.

This is fast-paced, nonstop fun. Cussler fans will gobble it up.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-08308-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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