In Faria’s debut thriller, a forensic accountant’s audit of an Atlanta company eventually unearths a conspiracy.
Investment fund Blue Creek Capital hires Nick Neville to audit tech company Cogvolve. It’s been a year since Blue Creek sank $1 billion into the firm, which still hasn’t produced any promised prototypes of “home appliances that are connected and controlled by artificial intelligence.” Nick finds nothing illicit while crunching the numbers, but he does discover some strange goings-on in and around Cogvolve. For starters, its lead researcher, Frederico Lanza, has inexplicably gone missing—and he later turns up dead. Also, protestors are decrying the company’s work on artificial intelligence, fearing that it will result in self-replicating machines. As Nick looks into Lanza’s death, he teams up with an anti-AI activist called “BabyKitty” (his preferred name as a “furry”). Along with Liliana Hofstein, the daughter of Lanza’s former college roommate, Nick and BabyKitty try to access the researcher’s encrypted flash drive, which is filled with stolen—and possibly incriminating—Cogvolve info. This necessitates a trip to Germany, where they have precarious run-ins with local authorities, as well as with members of the Illuminati. It’s clear that the trio has stumbled upon something more dangerous than they could have possibly imagined. The pace of Faria’s narrative is unhurried at first, as it meticulously details Nick’s failed relationships, as well as his past audits of crooked companies. However, the story slowly introduces an engrossing conspiracy, including flashbacks with famed historical figures, such as Nikola Tesla and Leonardo da Vinci. The mystery is occasionally convoluted; even the brilliant Nick can’t manage to tie together all the discoveries that the group makes. But the ultimate reveal, which boasts more than one effective twist, is a worthy payoff. Moments of humor help to lighten the complex narrative, particularly from BabyKitty, an extraordinary character who uses numerous, sometimes-surprising pseudonyms.
A slow burn, aided by remarkable characters and an impressive ending.