Terrorism, economic warfare, and “too big to fail” banks lend this thriller a sense of urgency.
Who knew international economics, the Federal Reserve Bank, and a room full of geeks could be so much fun, though Chapman gave us a hint in the first novel in this series, The Ascendant (2014). Things aren't good for Garrett Reilly: constant agony from a skull fracture drives him to take painkillers by the fistful as he searches for patterns of trades in his job on Wall Street. “Seeing patterns came naturally to him; he felt them as much as saw them.” And see one he does—a "dark pool" of money has been "buying and selling stocks in coordination with real-world events"—a stock would take a tumble, and then a seemingly random, unrelated crime would take place somewhere around the world. Just as Reilly notices the pattern, it sweeps him up: someone kills the president of the New York Federal Reserve, then implicates Reilly in the crime before putting a gun to her own head. The novel takes off in a hunt to find out why. Enter Russian bad guy Ilya Markov, economic assassin and Reilly’s intellectual doppelgänger. Markov learns the patterns of potential pawns and uses their predictability for his master plan. Reilly knows he needs more eyes watching, researching, in order to find this expert manipulator and calls on Ascendant, his team of misfits, not happy to be together again after their first engagement with the turbulent and arrogant Reilly. Garrett puts together a profile from the crime patterns, and when a passport triggers an alert, the team focuses on Markov, who's in deep cover for a Russian-sponsored attack on the economy of the United States. He thinks like Reilly and outmaneuvers him through the twists and turns of this action-packed novel. Ascendant frantically connects the dots to Markov’s ultimate target and ends up in a game of chicken. The pawn in this endgame is Alexis Truffant, Reilly's love interest from the first novel, and the gamble is breathtaking.
Chapman again delivers a crisp thriller, tapping themes of our times that daily news has made commonplace. And once again he has left it open-ended, teasing us in anticipation of the next novel in series.