In the latest volume in Breakfield and Burkey’s (The Enigma Stolen, 2015, etc.) techno-thriller series, a disreputable doctor’s life-extension project calls for abductions and human experiments with unwilling participants.
Su Lin nearly died from an accident that caused her to lose her memory. Formerly known as Master Po, she’d been an expert in cybertechnologies. When someone tries to kidnap Su Lin, a digital-security team called the R-Group suspects that the baddies are after Su Lin’s laptop. But the woman can’t remember what’s stored on her computer or how to bypass its complex encryption. She may have a connection to Dr. Xavier Pekoni, whose Fountain of Youth project—complete with unsanctioned human testing—had devastating side effects for its test subjects. A U.S. agency hires the R-Group to find Pekoni, convinced he’s attempting to finalize his research to increase human life spans. The authors excel at breezing through exposition, quickly setting up their newest tale: this time around, returning R-Group lovebirds Jacob and Petra are separated, the latter having isolated herself due to her physical and mental scars. Familiar bad guys abound as well: Jacob’s freelance work inadvertently entangles him with Zara of the villainous Russian Dteam. Zara, meanwhile, is on the run from Chairman Chang, from whom she stole €5 million in diamonds. There’s mystery throughout, as readers don’t immediately learn why Pekoni is trying to snatch Su Lin or if her teenlike behavior (she’s 50-something) can be remedied. By now there are enough recurring characters that many have paired up romantically, but Breakfield and Burkey still manage to churn out fresh interactions between the couples, as with Jacob and Petra, who, during a conference call with the R-Group, privately message one another to discuss their fractured relationship. The authors have likewise mastered scenes that are simultaneously cool and comical: Jacob’s tracking program is “his secret sauce,” and Zara gets help fencing the jewelry from her boss, Dmitry, who, by sheer happenstance, offers to sell the goods to rightful owner Chang.
As always, loaded with smart technological prose and an open ending that suggests more to come.