A CEO and psychiatrist are just two of the people searching for pieces of a machine whose existence could rewrite the laws of nature in this debut sci-fi thriller.
The apparent suicide of recluse Everett Lemily in New Hope, Pennsylvania, eventually catches the attention of FBI agent Randall Evans. Everett’s connected to a legacy case that was worked on by Randall’s fed grandfather, Walter, now dead. A strange, unsigned letter sends Randall to a cemetery, where he recovers a brown box that contains, among other things, a harmonic coil. It connects to a machine, one that Everett owned, which was auctioned off in parts after his death. This leads Randall to a New Hope antiques shop, but New York patent company CEO Tom Hartger is there first, having found his way there courtesy of a letter much like Randall’s. Tom, reunited with a former romantic interest, psychiatrist Gwen Pierce, buys an Edison Medal once awarded to Nikola Tesla. Randall also wants said medal, as does East Indian businessman Esha Durga. Various clues direct the hunters to other components, most notably three additional coils. The curious machine is allegedly capable of “peering behind the curtain in time,” but it’s some previously unknown links to the past that may have brought these individuals together. One thing’s for sure: a body confirms someone’s willing to resort to murder to get what he or she wants. Deeg retains ambiguity throughout, so the machine’s exact purpose isn’t clear until the end. But while there are enough hints that readers can figure out the mechanics, the real surprise is why anyone would want the machine operational. Historical name-dropping gives the novel a credible foundation; in addition to Tesla’s notebook, there’s a journal from inventor/scientist Alfred Lee Loomis. Primarily speculative discussions of an enigmatic machine ultimately prompt conversations about abstract notions, like Gwen pointing out that hide-and-seek is analogous to life in general. But these are relatively short and, in the case of Gwen’s spouts of psychiatric analyses, wonderfully odd ways to keep Tom calm. A sense of dread, meanwhile, is consistently present, with the feds looking at Tom and Gwen as potential suspects in the aforementioned murder.
Shrouded in mystery and conspiracy, with a big reveal that’s well worth the wait.