In Hicks’ (The Digital Pandemic, 2010, etc.) novel, a Homeland Security agent exposes a government conspiracy and a priest questions his faith in the midst of the looming destruction of his church.
Agent and psychologist Dr. Juanita “Juan” Aznar is flown to Texas and shown her doppelgänger. After her friend is shot and possibly killed, Juan learns of secret tests on “coordinates,” people’s mirror twins used to predict behavior. She confides in a priest named Monk, whose church in Florida is penniless and about to be demolished. Meanwhile, the covert organization Black Box is looking for coordinates among high-ranking officials. The novel, for the most part, reads like a thriller, particularly when Juan takes an active role and rummages through the office of Col. Pierce, her boss and the ostensible leader of Black Box. But Juan’s developing relationship with Monk is the only true link between what are essentially two separate stories, as neither character has much interaction with the other’s dilemma. Still, both stories engross. The doctor’s tale picks up speed as it moves along, the conspiracy deepening to include both a World War II connection and Juan’s personal history. On Monk’s side, vivacious characters abound—Monsignor Garcia, a former boxer slowly losing his memory; Abe, a Jewish man living on the streets whose dreams forecast the future; and the protagonist himself, an alcoholic’s son whose plan for saving the church includes a visit to the casino with $36 in his wallet. Despite its somber themes, the novel has subtle humor—the recurring image of pink bowling balls on Pierce’s desk; the tongue-in-cheek character names, including Monk for a priest, Juan’s abbreviated moniker as a homophone for one (her coordinate makes two), and Atol Black, a male who tries to blackmail Garcia.
Two stories that are not at all like doubles—one driven by plot and the other by characters—form an irrefutably accomplished novel.