With evil forces closing in on her hidden-away little boy as a way of getting to her, disgraced former FBI agent Jane Hawk (The Crooked Staircase, 2018, etc.) intensifies her one-woman campaign against a full-blown mind-control conspiracy.
Still traumatized by the death of her husband, a war veteran who was programmed to kill himself, Jane has stashed her 5-year-old, Travis, with friends in Southern California's Orange County. With her super fighting and undercover skills, she has out-thought and out-fought the malevolent Techno Arcadians, whose plans for remaking the world include enslaving innocents by injecting them with nanoconstructs. Wrongfully indicted for espionage, treason, and murder and demonized by the media, Jane, America's most wanted fugitive, is forced to alter her stealth strategies to save her son. Her ardent foes include Egon Gottfrey, an imbalanced agent with a Homeland Security background who follows the orders of the Unknown Playwright, and Ivan Petro, "a hit team all by himself." But though this is "a Jane Hawk novel," our heroine spends much of the book offstage. And when she is in action, the once dominating Jane can seem as programmed as any of the living victims. ("It's all like one big video game," says Gottfrey, perhaps speaking to us as the book's Unknown Critic.) The best scenes are reserved for a plucky 12-year-old girl named Laurie, who is in the clutches of a sadistic, brain-altered female FBI agent, and sweet young Travis, whose emergency Plan B has him and his dogs staying with a kindly, autistic recluse who made millions developing apps.
Having begun so impressively with The Silent Corner (2016), Koontz's four-title series still has its share of excitement but seems to have run out of ideas for its cagey heroine.