A private investigator is blackmailed into solving the most complex case of his career in this debut philosophical/mystery novel.
Private eye Jim is in the business of finding connections. “It’s what my brain is good at,” he explains. “It draws together pieces of random information that seem to belong to completely different fields but beneath the surface are in fact parts of the same iceberg.” But lately, his financial crimes cases have begun to bore him—all of economics is just a fraud, after all—and he is considering getting out of the game. After a friend tips him off to a coming danger, Jim boards a plane from New York to Brisbane, Australia, and continues to remote Fraser Island, hiding from society and learning to overcome his panic attacks. There, a mysterious stranger finds him and offers him the solution to a problem Jim has never been able to solve: the purpose of life on Earth. There is a hidden message encrypted in humans’ DNA, written by a creator. This enigmatic man, Jack, will tell Jim what it says—and release the detective’s daughter, who he has been taken hostage. But first Jim will have to solve a different riddle: one involving the entire economy of Japan, a computer virus called Zoe, and the search for a Chinese Max Planck. In this series opener, Topchiev’s prose is sharp and compelling, pulling readers through page after page. Unfortunately, Jim is a nearly intolerable and self-aggrandizing know-it-all: “I felt myself to be a rebel, an explorer. The Sherlock Holmes of defective societies, the Agatha Christie of group behavior, the Theseus of human nature trying to find a way out of the Minotaur’s maze. Now I’m nothing more than a sewage inspector, a parking warden, a police patroller.” His every conversation—and the book is little more than a series of conversations—quickly devolves into an abstracted discussion of economics, religion, politics, physics, or some other heady topic. Though these colloquies are often conceptually engaging, they keep the world of the novel from ever materializing, leaving the work feeling more like a series of undergraduate seminars than a mystery narrative.
A detective tale that is heavier on ideas than story.