Safflind’s (Shadowmaster III: Star Light, Star Bright, 2012, etc.) supernatural thriller series returns with the counterespionage team trying to stop a suspected plot to sabotage a nuclear reactor.
Powerful budding empath Barry Sandler and ex-Navy SEAL Stanley Egor, both part of Investigative Services Incorporated, are sent to Cuba circa 1999, where a newly completed nuclear reactor will soon start running. Dr. Adrian Kahler, a telepath and ISI member, believes the Collective—a covert group and old enemy—has aspirations of nuclear attacks. Barry, Egor and Lisette, their Cuban contact, uncover much more than a political overthrow, as religious followers venture toward murder and terrorism. This volume in the series once again incorporates a supernatural element as a backdrop, with a plot driven by action and murder mystery. But while ISI has previously taken on vampires and extraterrestrial messages, the fourth book is a bit more down-to-earth, with Barry and Egor combating a villain’s mind control over Santeria believers. The villain’s motivation for brainwashing is essentially to recruit people for a terrorist act, all for the purpose of taking power from Fidel Castro and lifting the U.S. embargo. That’s not to say the story doesn’t have its share of strange, unsettling moments: Barry begins the novel in Cancún with Marta, a Cuban woman, and has a vision of her transformation into a tigress, slashing at his chest and throat; and while being held captive, Barry’s biggest threats are overly aggressive rats. This time around, Barry seems less of an apprentice, since Adrian—who typically extracts info via his target’s hypnotic state—can merely disperse advice over the phone. Barry must rely on his own empathic skills; fortunately, his ability, which he has yet to perfect, proves advantageous, particularly when he senses Lisette’s physical pain while they’re apart. Standing over seven feet tall, Egor has an imposing stature that’s shown as a peril for the baddies, though it’s just as often played for laughs: He crams himself into airplane seats and the back of Lisette’s ’55 Chevy, and he needs two mattresses for sleeping. Elsewhere, the political turmoil in communist Cuba is suitably established, mostly in drawn-out discussions between Cuban Lisette and capitalism-loving Barry.
A commendable addition and a smashing conclusion to the tetralogy—though there’s room for even more.