Frank O’Brien seems to have it all—a beautiful wife, a new baby and a rewarding job doing counter-terrorism work for the U.S. government—but when a plane carrying his wife crashes in South America, he’s forced into a dark underworld where the drug trade lords over all.
A follow-up to Wulff’s debut novel, Tropic of Darkness (2012), which also follows the exploits of Frank O’Brien, this sequel peppers in synopsis where needed and lures in new readers with immediate action. The opening chapter reveals a devastating plane crash and the supposed death of Esmeralda O’Brien. However, the plot shifts to the perspective of a survivor whom readers will be able to guess is Esmeralda, even if memory loss has made her unable to recognize herself. Beyond this narrative maneuver, the book is filled with massive plot twists; even the cleverest readers won’t be able to keep up with the ceaseless action. The rapid pacing helps intensify the sense of urgency the characters feel as they’re plunged into a world where the drug trade is more important than family, love or even life itself. Explosions, double-crosses and lethal alliances burst off the page with relentless intensity. But the narrative sometimes falters when it filters information through multiple perspectives, resulting in unnecessary repetition. Instead of allowing readers to process the information, or relating it through action, too much time is spent with characters merely talking about the titular Umber Cube, what it does and how bad it is. Events in the story already show the horrific consequences of the drug trade and how the Umber Cube substance has the potential to destroy thousands of lives, so when characters take significant amounts of time to reiterate what we already know, it seems superfluous. Still, it’s a relatively minor issue, and the rest of the story relates an intriguing depiction of a vast, multinational drug conspiracy with deeply personal fallout.
An expertly crafted thriller that depicts personal drama amid an international scope, with intense action and relentless pacing.