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A young woman is drawn into a deadly conspiracy and an unexpected romance in Pratt’s (The Yachtjacking, 2011) spy thriller.

When her half brother, Theo, is murdered and posthumously implicated as a corporate spy, Juli Ambrose investigates his death on behalf of their mutual employer, Nucleion America, part of the large multinational company Nucleion Pharmaceutical. She delves deep into the world of corporate espionage, driven by a desire to exonerate Theo, and by deeper suspicions spurred by a meeting with an elusive spy named Quadro. She travels to Nucleion’s headquarters in Verona, Italy, where Romano Fabrizio, the handsome nephew of Nucleion’s founder, offers his help. However, unbeknownst to Juli, he’s also the man responsible for the espionage blamed on Theo—part of his own investigation into his fiancee’s death due to one of Nucleion’s products. Although Juli’s initially skeptical of Romano’s intentions, they quickly fall in love and combine their efforts to uncover what’s really happening at Nucleion. The novel’s core mystery serves primarily as a means to entangle its main characters in an ill-fated romance. As a result, the espionage plot often becomes secondary to the familial drama following Juli and Romano’s sudden coupling, which feels unbelievable even without myriad plot twists. The Shakespearean homage doesn’t end with potentially doomed romance, however, as Juli suffers recurring flashbacks to a traumatic experience during a high school production of Romeo and Juliet, in which she suffered a claustrophobic episode while trapped in Juliet’s tomb. This serves to foreshadow the novel’s climax, and as a metaphorical device for Juli’s emotional state—a parallel that Pratt repeats throughout the novel. He uses a similar device in his portrayal of the novel’s primary antagonist, Romano’s domineering uncle Enzo Fabrizio, whose collection of sexually explicit Japanese netsuke sculptures makes Juli uncomfortable, and hints at one of the novel’s darker plot twists. These metaphors aren’t very subtle, but they do provide ample foreshadowing. They also offer a stronger degree of character development than readers often find in the genre.

A convoluted thriller with some intriguing stylistic touches.

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher
Program: Kirkus Indie
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