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THE PROGRAM by Gregg Hurwitz

THE PROGRAM

By Gregg Hurwitz

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2004
ISBN: 0-06-053040-5
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

In an only fitfully scary sequel, series hero Deputy US Marshall Tim Rackley chases a cultmeister who’s chasing the money.

For on-the-shelf Tim Rackley, the visit from Hollywood producer Will Henning turns out to be propitious. Not because Tim is drawn to the movie mogul. Far from it. He finds Henning arrogant and unpleasant, perhaps exactly the kind of parent who might be expected to lose a daughter to the bogus promises of a cult posing as family. But Henning comes bearing a gift, and Tim is needy these days. He’s been asked out of the US Marshall’s Service due to certain vigilante-like transgressions (see The Kill Clause, 2003), and he misses the job the way tempestuous spirits always miss the reassurance of structure. Find daughter Leah, spring her, make her available for deprogramming, Henning says, and he’ll pull the strings that will reactivate Tim—at least temporarily. An irresistible proposition. So Tim Rackley becomes Tom Altman, with a $90-million investment portfolio, negligible self-esteem, and an apparent bent for discipleship. Enter the demonic supervillain J.D. Betters, creator and boss of “The Program,” from which he’s grown rich beyond even his own avaricious dreams. Leah, brainwashed and cocooned, is in his clutches, and happy to be there. Before long Tim/Tom joins her; that is, he goes undercover, his fat portfolio a lure effective enough to hook Betters hard and blinker his usually reliable security system. Along with a packed house of other “neos” (recruits), he’s told to “Get with the Program,” terminate negativity, stamp out victimhood, and abandon the old ways, a process invariably involving the transfer of worldly goods. The stage is set then—Rackley vs. Betters, good duking it out with evil. No doubt as to the eventual outcome, of course, but for a time we’re led to believe it’s a near thing.

A villain so blatant and so banal you’ll wonder where the charisma went.