The CIA’s search for a mysterious, untraceable company blamed for the world’s unstable economy unravels a decadeslong string of conspiracies in this debut thriller.
Julianne Schuller transferred from the IRS to help CIA agent Eisenhower investigate insurance firms that went bust during the 2008 mortgage crisis. But when they connect the companies to seemingly invisible RASTEC (no digital trail, etc.), CIA Director Rosenberg takes the case away from them. Rosenberg already knows of RASTEC, which has backed numerous businesses tied to “suspicious buying patterns” on the stock market. Declaring RASTEC a potential terrorist organization, the director puts an investigative team together. It isn’t long before the group catches a lead: people from RASTEC-associated companies have encrypted laptops with a self-destruct fail-safe. Schuller, meanwhile, is unhappy with her mundane task of locating the U.S. president’s unknown father and even more upset that Eisenhower’s secretive about his latest gig, which she assumes is her original case. She initiates her own investigation, eventually stumbling upon the name Theonydas—though it’s unclear if it’s a person or something else. Some agents are worried about possible traitors in their midst, but that’s merely a hint of the nefarious deeds that have been covertly taking place for years. Patel’s story thrives on keeping readers in the dark, teasing an imminent global crisis before a flashback slowly reveals details about the present-day plight. The plot weaves in copious real-world events (like 9/11), often to explain who or what may have been truly responsible. It’s complex but undeniably engrossing and, despite various double-crossings and murder, sometimes comical. A drunk Eisenhower, for example, to ensure he makes it to a surveillance job, opts for a wobbly bicycle ride. The story’s credibility is occasionally diluted by instances of European parlance: American characters say mobile instead of cellphone and drop a “bloody” or two. But the twist-laden narrative practically guarantees that even if some of it is predictable, readers will find surprises awaiting them.
A keen labyrinthine plot sprinkled with moments of intrigue and humor.