Byrne (Skin in the Game, 2015) returns to the world of renegade whistleblower Joe Hawkins in this new ecological thriller.
On the outskirts of a Lakota reservation in South Dakota, a boy witnesses a shocking murder right before a train derails and spills its shipment of oil. Thousands of miles away, at the edge of an Icelandic glacier, two exiles hide from their past. Joe is a former analyst for the U.S. State Department and an Oxford University professor who was recently imprisoned and forced to watch his girlfriend tortured and killed by people connected to Mandrake Resources, a fuel extraction company whose corruption he uncovered. Kate Farrow is an ex–MI6 psychiatrist who helped Joe escape but who can never return home to England because she disobeyed her employers: “She liked to consider herself resilient, but what do you do when you can no longer be the person you have spent a lifetime training to be?” The answer comes from an old ally, who suggests that Joe and Kate sneak into the United States in order to hook up with the activist environmental group Green Way, which is waging a campaign against Mandrake. The situation with Green Way turns out to be stranger than the pair expected, but it presents an opportunity to finally put Mandrake out of business. They must work quickly before an international cabal succeeds in eliminating them. Byrne writes in a precise prose that gives his story a deadly serious tone, even in those moments when the plot drifts into unlikely territory. He excels at placing his characters in environments in which the starkly drawn landscapes highlight the precarious lives they lead. “How do you fit the world into a story?” wonders one activist while talking about the subject of climate-change denial. “And how do you fit story into the world?” The world of Byrne’s novel is balanced on the edge of a cliff—and its story will hold readers captive for as long as it takes for that world to right itself.
A tautly written thriller propelled by sharp writing and an ever complicating plot.