British intelligence agents must figure out if a potential nuclear threat in London is motivated by politics, religion, or something more personal in Thistlewood’s (Bastards & Baronets, 2016, etc.) thriller.
Prime Minister Nancy Melville is concerned about a note she received in the mail that references a name, Basiliskos, and biblical verses that hint at a possible nuclear attack. There’s also been a series of murders of London prostitutes, each taking place during or just after gatherings led by a popular evangelist known only as “Jesus II.” The latest killing, however, is of Didier Thomas, a member of Parliament and a co-founder of the Doffers, a notable group of religious enthusiasts. MI5 Director-General Sir Charles Pithcart is uncertain whether Thomas’ assassination was motivated by politics or religion. He’s also looking into the aforementioned note, which his journalist daughter, Claire, also decides to investigate. Her colleague, cadet reporter Emma McKay, links it to her late physicist father, Douglas, who, back in the 1980s, worked on an American project called Basil—“something to do with lasers,” Emma explains. Evidence soon points to numerous murder suspects, including terrorists. Thistlewood’s story is practically bursting with subplots and theories. Various characters, such as British Director of Counter Terrorism Mike Mortlake, postulate their own scenarios, often with specific suspects in mind. The story is dizzying but enjoyable as the author deftly establishes various character relationships; the mutual dislike between MI-5 Deputy Director-General Martin Aston and Director of the Analysis Centre Sue Remlick, for example, is abundantly clear. Further illicit deeds bolster the plot, including a scandalous affair and more than one instance of blackmail. Much of the story’s dialogue is refreshingly distinctive, and even captures its American characters’ distinctive drawl. Oddly, though, Thistlewood censors the profanity in his narrative (“Well, where the f…”) until the final act, in which the players use quite a few F-words.
A dense, absorbing tale featuring dogged characters that give the plot momentum.