A suspense novel injects technological and conspiracy elements into a dark plot.
It’s clear from the start that this isn’t just a random San Francisco Bay Area slaying. Dwight Beauchamp’s missing heart and the three unrelated bodies in the same condition would be enough for a federal investigation. But Dwight’s role as an extraordinarily talented hacker, tasked with the security of the new national power system called the Smart Grid, raises far more red flags. FBI Special Agents Alvaro Cruz and Mitchell Hastings are tasked with probing the murder, but the facts of the case don’t seem to line up with any ritual or serial killings they’ve encountered. Dwight’s paranoia in the weeks before his death point to a specific threat, but few knew of his involvement with the Smart Grid and the other victims offer no new leads. Because the U.S. president will soon arrive in California to bring the grid online, Cruz and Hastings rush to find a witness who may be able to make sense of what’s going on. And lurking in the shadows is a conspiracy steeped in sacrifice, belief, and revenge, hundreds of years in the making. More than murder, this may be a bloody, terrible menace the likes of which the world has never seen. The prose is tightly written and well-paced, even given the substantial length of the novel (close to 600 pages). What’s more, the details of the mystery and the story are surprisingly understandable and well-explained, though there’s plenty of information to ingest from the crime-solving team, the tech industry, and even the legacy of the ancient Aztec civilization. The characters may be mostly rote and archetypal, but they don’t detract from Smith’s (Choices, 2013) taut tale that much. Readers will likely be so enticed by the plot that they won’t really notice. The main question with this sort of story is whether it keeps the pages turning and the readers guessing, and if it can avoid getting bogged down in dreary exposition. By those metrics, this series opener passes with flying colors.
Delightfully meaty and thrilling; a perfect escape that promises more action and intrigue to come.