Seifer (Rasputin’s Nephew, 2016, etc.) gives readers two stories for the price of one in this sequel, set in 2016 and during the first world war.
The present-day tale features Rudy Styne, Modern Times Magazine’s ace reporter. He’s investigating a series of high-profile computer attacks and trying to figure out just who a hacker named “CodeBreaker Morant” is, and more crucially, who “NTroodr,” a sinister cracker, is; a hacker, readers learn, is usually harmless, but a cracker definitely isn’t. NTroodr may be planning to crash the entire World Wide Web and time is short. Rudy thinks that Ashley La Polla, a computer genius at MIT, may be Morant, but then she winds up dead. Rudy also spots a fellow named Rolf Linzman who, though a few years older, could be Rudy’s identical twin; somehow, Rudy and Rolf are related, but how? Later, Rudy’s elderly Uncle Abe shows up at Rudy and his fiancee Chessie’s wedding; he’s tied to a parallel story that takes readers to Germany at the turn of the last century. In it, Elias Maxwell has a burgeoning company called Maxwell-Bavarian Machine Works. His younger brother, Simon, is a first-class mechanic who’s enamored of this new invention: a flying machine. A decade later, during World War I, Simon finds himself dogfighting with, and killing, men who were his brothers in the early aeronautic fraternity. The story behind Rudy’s mysterious parentage, among other resolutions, is held over until the forthcoming third installment, Crystal Night, which will strike some readers as clever and others as unsportsmanlike. This book could have used a stronger edit to trim it down and catch errors (a very old man isn’t automatically an “antiquarian,” for example, and the canal waters of Venice, Italy, are likely not “effervescent”). But the author’s depiction of the early aviation era is thorough and interesting, and his handling of Simon’s torment is truly wrenching as the character’s inner conflict—exacerbated by the enthusiastic spirit of his morally challenged mates, who see downing planes as exciting sport—drives him to tragedy.
An often engaging thriller series installment that’s worth a read.