Two men try to take down an American secret society bent on global domination in Priligkos’ debut thriller.
In 2015, during a live broadcast on a Chicago TV talk show, noted author and philosopher Jason Hannibal vows to reveal a scandal involving powerful people. Police inspector Marcos Ligos is watching the show at home when the screen turns black. Marcos saved Jason from an assassination attempt while working a security detail a decade prior, so he assumes the worst and goes looking for him. Indeed, Jason narrowly escaped members of a clandestine group known as the Physicists, which has been around since the end of World War II, promising its recruits a spiritual “Rebirth.” A disillusioned Jason left the Physicists 25 years ago and kept himself hidden, but he’s now an easy target—especially because someone killed his mob boss protector. (The group has also pinned a couple of murders on Jason.) After he meets up with Marcos, Jason surmises that they have mere hours until daylight, when they’ll be at risk of being spotted. In the meantime, the men try to find a golden key that will give them access to a secret room containing evidence that the Physicists have been controlling citizens and spearheading numerous, significant events, such as the Watergate scandal. Priligkos’ novel is packed with invigorating elements; for example, as the two main characters rush to beat the sunrise deadline, they also dodge a hit man pursuing them and struggle to keep Marcos’ involvement secret, in order to protect his 11-year-old son. It’s also a particular treat for conspiracy theorists, as it turns out that the Physicists had a hand in everything from Vietnam to Hollywood films. Some problems, however, hurt the story, including vague descriptions (such as one of an injured character who “drop[s] down full of blood”); references to Marcos as both “Marc” and “Mark”; and Jason citing The Omen as a film from 1973, even though it was actually released three years later. Likewise, a few notions come across as demeaning, such as an assertion that gay men in “professional fields” and women in powerful posts owe their successes to the Physicists’ manipulations. However, the book’s ending is undeniably memorable.
An energetic, densely plotted tale that might have benefited from a stronger edit.