John Smith, the mind-reading crime fighter introduced in Killfile (2016), goes up against Downvote, a darknet site that incites violence against targeted individuals.
The victims range from gay rights activists to stuck-up cheerleaders to media types. The latest target is pouty reality TV star Kira Sadeghi, who's gunned down at her wedding. Smith, a former CIA special ops man working for a secret Los Angeles–based organization, has a personal stake in the case. Kira, whom he saved from kidnappers a year ago, went to bed with him a few weeks before her wedding—and, more important, treated him with unexpected tenderness when he was wracked by the convulsions he gets after using his power to implant dire fears in his opponents ("I get back a percentage of everything I inflict"). After visiting the offshore yacht where Aaric Stack, billionaire inventor of an anonymous cash transfer app, evades the feds, Smith determines they're wrong in thinking Stack is the man behind Downvote. Teaming up with Stack's fetching and ferocious bodyguard, Smith tracks down the real culprit. The trail leads them to Reykjavik, Bucharest, Hong Kong, and Laos, lands them in jail, and exposes them to physical punishment. Sometimes, even Smith's powers can't stop the bad guys from hitting him in the head really hard. This is another entertaining performance by Farnsworth, who brings an edgy sense of humor to the proceedings. But Smith's freakish skills aren't quite as impressive the second time around, and the plot doesn't exert the same pull. More could be made of the flash-mob concept.
Farnsworth's follow-up to Killfile is a smooth, assured effort but lacks some of the first book's excitement—partly because the methods and mentality of its strangely gifted protagonist have lost some of their freshness.