FATAL SCORE by John Baird  Rogers

FATAL SCORE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

When a man suspects someone of altering medical records for financial gain, powerful individuals target him for elimination in this debut near-future novel.

Joe Mayfield and his wife, Cynthia, are devastated when they learn she has ovarian cancer. They at least take solace in her HealthScore of 84, meaning she’ll receive extensive treatment. But an unforeseen drop to 62 changes the therapy to mere pain killers, and Cynthia dies shortly thereafter. So Joe, treasury manager at Florida Consolidated Energy, hacks his way into the InterAgency Channel, a secure database the U.S. implemented after the multinational CyberWar One. He is looking for—and eventually finds—evidence that someone intentionally adjusted Cynthia’s HealthScore along with a handful of others, possibly as part of an insurance scam. Joe’s amateur hacking catches the attention of IAC tracker Louise “Weezy” Napolitani and his FCE superiors, who fire him. But another FCE employee, with ties to the scam, mysteriously dies, and Joe goes on the run incognito. Of course, resourceful Weezy locates him with relative ease, but she opts to help him thwart probable lawbreakers and covertly stays in contact with Joe. But what’s happening is bigger than either has guessed, and now they’re both in danger. Although Rogers’ near-future series opener accommodates sci-fi components (for example, the post–CyberWar One setting), it’s at its best as a mystery/suspense tale. Joe, for example, is a convincing protagonist; as a numbers guy, he uncovers wrongdoing while his subpar hacking proves detrimental. The narrative bounces along with copious dialogue and tight, concise descriptions, like calling Joe’s boss, Milt James, “a dyed-in-the-wool Prick. With a capital P.” Milt is furthermore indicative of the finely drawn characters. Joe and Weezy are a solid, capable duo even when not in proximity. But the villains are just as memorable, particularly Big Louie and Snake, two menacing types who hunt Joe starting in Florida and continuing through various states.

A rousing launch to a thriller series that has potential regardless of which character takes the spotlight.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2018
Page count: 268pp
Publisher: Gotuit Publishing
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 2018




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