SKINNER by Charlie Huston


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A cyberterrorist attack against America looms in this grim, hard-edged thriller from Edgar Award–nominated author Huston.

The scenario at the core of this latest from Huston is time-honored: A plot is afoot that may bring down the U.S. But Huston brings his end-of-the-world cliffhanger solidly into the 21st century by centering it on cyberterrorism. It seems that culprits lurking in the Ukraine are plotting to disable the U.S. computer grid. Missile launching systems have also been sighted in the vicinity, and already they’ve possibly done a test run that blacked out parts of Ohio and Pennsylvania and took five lives. An independent security agency contends that only a woman named Jae can ferret out what’s afoot. She’s their “asset,” and they’ll put her in motion only with an “asset protector.” Enter Skinner, whose maxim is, “The only way to secure an asset is to ensure that the cost of acquiring it is greater [than] its value.” The two are off to Europe in a pursuit suffused with treachery, violence and double cross. While much of what follows is essentially drawn from the le Carré playbook, Huston kicks it up a step with characters whose hearts of concrete make Smiley and Company look like sob sisters. Skinner’s demented parents kept him in a box for the first 12 years of his life, breeding a killer. Jae is a crack roboticist who is often high on amphetamines and psychedelics. Realizing Skinner may be falling for her, she bolts herself in a bathroom stall and screams obscenities. Meanwhile, in contrast, intervening chapters are suffused with warmth (and some of Huston’s better writing) as they follow a young Mumbai boy and his family, whose activities eventually intersect with Jae and Skinner’s as the doomsday clock ticks away. Huston indeed evokes a bleak, apocalyptic world, but the book is slowly paced and weighted down by a prolix, elliptical style.

A tale that may enthrall technogeeks while sending their elders scrambling through Hacking for Dummies.

Pub Date: July 9th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-316-13372-2
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Mulholland Books/Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2013


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