Amid the welter of financial details, Harris creates a novel of tension and suspense by focusing more on the human than on...

THE FEAR INDEX

A smart and sophisticated novel about machines becoming conscious—or about humans becoming paranoid about whether machines can become conscious.

Super-intelligent research physicist Dr. Alex Hoffmann lives with his artist wife Gabrielle in a mansion in Geneva, Switzerland. Formerly a scientist with the CERN project, Hoffmann has branched off into artificial intelligence, creating a machine called VIXAL-4, which helps the one percent become even richer by monitoring investments and making fast and nuanced predictions about market trends. Although the stock market in general languishes, VIXAL-4 clicks along at an 83 percent rate of return, so Hoffmann’s business partner, Hugo Quarry, who’s more adept with human interaction than the reclusive Hoffmann, lines up some billionaire angels for investment possibilities…and that’s where things begin to go wrong. First, an intruder breaks into the Hoffmanns’ house, breaching an impressive and expensive security system that had recently been installed. Then, at the opening reception for Gabrielle’s first show, someone buys up every one of her works. Could it be the intruder? Is someone toying with Hoffmann, sending him a message that his life is not as secure as he thinks? Hoffmann tracks down and kills a man he believes is trying to kill him, and VIXAL-4 starts doing untoward things, making financial decisions that seem to be independent of any human control. When Hoffmann discovers a camera hidden in his smoke detector, he starts to suspect that Genoud, the man who had installed the security system, might be out to get him, so he takes off on the lam, becoming ever more irrational and out of control.

Amid the welter of financial details, Harris creates a novel of tension and suspense by focusing more on the human than on the mechanistic.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-95793-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 21, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2011

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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This thriller is taut and fast-paced but lacks compelling protagonists.

THE FAMILY UPSTAIRS

Three siblings who have been out of touch for more than 20 years grapple with their unsettling childhoods, but when the youngest inherits the family home, all are drawn back together.

At the age of 25, Libby Jones learns she has inherited a large London house that was held in a trust left to her by her birthparents. When she visits the lawyer, she is shocked to find out that she was put up for adoption when she was 10 months old after her parents died in the house in an apparent suicide pact with an unidentified man and that she has an older brother and sister who were teenagers at the time of their parents' deaths and haven't been seen since. Meanwhile, in alternating narratives, we're introduced to Libby's sister, Lucy Lamb, who's on the verge of homelessness with her two children in the south of France, and her brother, Henry Lamb, who's attempting to recall the last few disturbing years with his parents during which they lost their wealth and were manipulated into letting friends move into their home. These friends included the controlling but charismatic David Thomsen, who moved his own wife and two children into the rooms upstairs. Henry also remembers his painful adolescent confusion as he became wildly infatuated with Phineas, David’s teenage son. Meanwhile, Libby connects with Miller Roe, the journalist who covered the story about her family, and the pair work together to find her brother and sister, determine what happened when she was an infant, and uncover who has recently been staying in the vacant house waiting for Libby to return. As Jewell (Watching You, 2018, etc.) moves back and forth from the past to the present, the narratives move swiftly toward convergence in her signature style, yet with the exception of Lucy’s story, little suspense is built up and the twists can’t quite make up for the lack of deep characters and emotionally weighty moments.

This thriller is taut and fast-paced but lacks compelling protagonists.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-9010-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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