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by Jim Rush

Publisher: Manuscript

CIA agent Browning is implanted with a sensory-enhancing microchip to help track down rogue test subjects in the author’s debut action novel.

Browning, working in Afghanistan, is pulled away for a covert operation. The job will require skills he’d once used for a position he willingly left behind—as a proficient assassin. He is surgically embedded with “the System,” essentially a replication of the ampullae of Lorenzini: the electroreceptors sharks use to locate prey. The System was intended as a lie detector to gauge people’s responses, but there are side effects, namely driving subjects to the brink of madness. Browning levels the playing field against three officers at large, all implanted with the System and sporting murderous impulses. Rush’s book thrives on precise action and rousing scenes of pursuit. Browning is initially fed intel on only one of the officers and is not provided with more information until he’s finished with the first target. This approach keeps the story focused—one evildoer at a time—and also adds suspense, as it’s apparent that each System-infused officer is more deadly than the next. The “villains” are given ample points of view and are wonderfully diverse. Mila, in particular, is humanized; she seems to have fallen prey to a failed experiment and, in one of the novel’s best sequences, is introduced like a potential victim. The book makes the most impact with Browning and his progression with the System. It moves from a weapon to a burden, as he gradually begins to rely on it more and more while fraught with an ever-present headache. Rush peppers the prose with humorous descriptions and metaphors—Browning is considered a “custom-built assassin,” and the sound of gunfire is compared to a “family of giants” arguing. The ending is wholly gratifying, one that will certainly stick in readers’ minds.

From stealthy tracking to all-out sprints, hand-to-hand battles and mental combat—a triumph in every respect.