In Waldron’s (Lion’s Head Deception, 2013, etc.) conspiracy thriller, a power-hungry businessman hatches a plot to institute martial law in Toronto, and the only people who can stop him are a blogger, a reporter, and a cameraman.
Blogger Matt Tremain stumbles upon the story of a lifetime when a source tips him off to the nefarious master plan behind CleanSweep, an all-encompassing surveillance program that’s been granted unprecedented freedom to monitor everyone in the city of Toronto in the aftermath of recent riots. It turns out that CleanSweep CEO Charles Claussen intends to capture what he deems to be the most undesirable members of society—including homeless people, ex-convicts, and members of the LGBT community—and pack them off to labor camps. His grandfather, he says to his friends at one point, “was an engineer for Hitler, and proud to have helped design many of the camps” who “offered advice on how to avoid the pitfalls, the mistakes both Hitler and Stalin made.” The novel’s greatest strengths are its evocation of the political climate of World War II and its resonance with more recent cultural debates, such as Edward Snowden’s revelations about global surveillance and the rise of far-right politics worldwide. Yet the story loses steam early on, as the heroes uncover Claussen’s diabolical scheme fairly quickly, finding more than enough evidence to attract global attention; one can’t help but wonder why Matt doesn’t promptly notify a major news outlet. Couldn’t his reporter ally, Susan, help him reach out to influencers in the press? “Old-school technology trumps high tech when it comes to avoiding CleanSweep,” one of Matt’s associates informs him, but does it, really? The novel does serve up a number of clandestine coffee shop meetings and anonymous, low-fi cellphone conversations that manage to keep things entertaining, but they mostly serve only to lengthen the story.
A promising thriller with a provocative premise, but one that lets the cat out of the bag a bit too early.