A top refining executive searching for the group sabotaging her company faces murder and deceit in this third installment of a series.
Lynn Dayton is at TriCoast Energy’s San Francisco refinery to check on an apparent computer glitch generating false alarms. But there’s suddenly a genuine emergency, and an explosion results in the deaths of three TriCoast employees. Lynn surmises that someone has hacked the refinery’s control system. And indeed, readers know that over in Beijing, Cong Li heads a company that orchestrates cyberattacks and is currently focusing on TriCoast. Lynn and other executives beef up security, which entails self-defense training and bodyguards. This unfortunately doesn’t prevent a TriCoast employee’s suspicious death in New Orleans or an incident involving a missing laptop with pertinent company information that later turns up on the darknet. Investigators eventually get a name or two that points the finger at Chinese and possibly Russian involvement, but that doesn’t exactly explain the motive for concentrating on TriCoast. As security breaches against the company’s additional refineries continue, assassins unmistakably have Lynn and others in their crosshairs. Perhaps even more frightening is Lynn’s discovery that there’s likely a mole inside TriCoast who’s been aiding the murderous baddies. Starks (Strike Price, 2014, etc.) wisely provides the villains’ perspective from the beginning. This fosters unremitting suspense throughout, as, for example, readers learn Lynn is an assassination target well before she does. The author’s narrative typically consists of characters’ scrupulous discussions about the company’s predicament, including the ongoing killings and cyberattacks. This leads to some reiteration of particulars most already know but also keeps a plot that’s brimming with numerous characters and locations from becoming too convoluted. At the same time, a couple of deaths are unpredictable as well as dramatically impactful. Lynn is a no-nonsense and competent female protagonist. The story reveals a welcome tender side through her husband, Cy, and her beloved stepchildren, but, at least in this volume, their appearances are sadly few.
Spirited characters, both good and bad, populate this engaging, often surprising thriller.