In Murphy’s (Tag Day, 2013) thriller, the CIA recruits a man with a unique talent, but an internal struggle for power within the agency may put him and his family in danger.
Computer Information Technologies employee Tony James’ ability to sense a person’s dominant personality trait piques the interest of the CIA’s Savant Syndrome Division. Almost immediately after the SSD drafts him, Tony receives a cryptic text: “REMEMBER, NOTHING IS REALLY AS IT SEEMS.” Sure enough, his very first mission, to gauge a potential SSD asset, goes awry when he narrowly escapes an explosion. Tony suspects his house is bugged and covertly checks out his handler, Audrey Shelton. It seems he’s caught in the midst of many potentially lethal secrets surrounding Audrey, starting back in 1995 when she succeeded her late hubby, Andrew, as CIT’s CEO. The novel, with chapters that alternate between present day and 1995, is a gleefully convoluted plot full of twists, suspense, and the occasional gunfight. The story thrives on its seemingly endless revelations: among the SSD agents, for example, is someone with a twin whose parents are a surprise Murphy saves for later in the novel. Tony’s sharing of the spotlight with Audrey does lessen his role in his own series, but Audrey is a worthy co-lead, both smart and resourceful. One of Tony’s most engrossing qualities is his Tourette’s syndrome, which played a significant role in the preceding book as he tried to hide his physical and verbal tics. This time around, unfortunately, his symptoms are no longer an obstacle and all but disappear. Murphy, however, loads his novel with intrigue, particularly in Tony’s ability to immediately glean someone’s nature.
Missing the nuance from Tony’s last adventure, but an exhilarating and complex story more than make up for it.