In Hussey’s sci-fi-infused debut thriller, a Chinese spy network uses coercion and force to get a U.S. Army chemist and his scientist offspring to help develop a new weapon.
Col. Ben Jessup hardly knows his adult son, professor Jonathan J. “Jcube” Jessup, and blames his ex for turning his boy against him. Cell 12, the espionage branch of China’s People’s Liberation Army, has eyes on both men. Its operatives manage to drug Ben and take him to its “super-secretive site” near Mongolia. There, Dr. Lia Tseng Li interrogates him while he’s heavily drugged, trying to extract information regarding Ben’s area of expertise: chemical weapons technology. Back in the United States, Jcube works with a new department head, Dr. Zhuo Kwai Xiang, unaware that he’s a Cell 12 spy. Zhuo hopes to use Jcube’s field of study, eusocial (hive) insects, to find a chemically based way to trigger hive behavior in mammals. The two make headway, win awards, and get a bump in their lab’s funding. Cell 12 wants Jcube to continue his work at its facility, and Zhuo is willing to use blackmail to get him to agree: specifically, a DVD featuring Jcube and a dominatrix dancer. Soon, Jcube learns the specifics on Cell 12’s wide-ranging plan. Hussey grounds his tale in intelligent scientific descriptions: “the possibility of enhanced pheromone susceptibility was not nearly as ‘big a leap’ as trying to reinnervate some functionless tissue.” The characters’ interactions are likewise believable; the generally reticent Jcube, for example, grows fond of Zhuo’s wife, Shaome, and their toddler daughter, Prixir. There’s even a potential romance that brews between Ben and his interrogator, Lia. Nevertheless, the story is hampered by typos and inconsistencies: for example, Ben’s favorite spot, Billy’s Pub, later becomes Billy’s Bar, and Jcube’s name changes to Jesse Jonathan. Furthermore, Hussey uses superfluous quotation marks around metaphors (“sink in”; “sealed the deal”), and frequently deploys all-caps during the already rousing and explosive final act.
A flawed but worthy espionage tale with an alarming villainous scheme.