BLACK MESA by Jeff Shear


The Final Report: Who do you trust?
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A public affairs officer goes undercover to unravel the conspiracy behind a nuclear explosion that leveled Washington, D.C.

Shear (Near Miss, 2016, etc.) further immerses “accidental spy” Jackson Guild into the international intrigue behind the September 2009 attack that killed the U.S. president, most of Congress, and all of the Supreme Court justices, along with almost 60,000 citizens. It is now May 2010. Tricked by a former spy acquaintance, Elvin Krongartten, Guild is dispatched to Los Alamos, New Mexico. Under the pretext of writing a book, he is looking to get the goods on Edder Industries, “the most powerful management and engineering firm in America…a mom ’n’ pop shop…answerable to no stockholder,” which manages the nation’s entire nuclear weapons industry. Guild carries evidence that the Los Alamos lab whitewashed a report about the attack, and wants to find out who the “great and historic” Edder family is protecting. He is looking to hook up with malcontents he calls the Seven Dwarfs. He becomes involved with Dr. Alessandra Almont, his Snow White, “a modern-day Marie Curie” and Nobel Prize candidate who may have her own agenda. In addition, he freelances “a second parallel mission” to learn the truth about “a rumored fourth-generation nuclear weapon…no larger than a heavy Rubik’s Cube” and whose existence could threaten “to unhinge matters of war and peace.” Readers new to the series, of which this is the third entry, may struggle to get their bearings. The writing can be murky. For example, the first mention of the Seven Dwarfs refers to them as “possibles,” but possibles of what is not immediately clarified. In Edder Industries, Shear seems to be setting up a villain of Bondian proportions, but none surfaces. The Edders are only discussed. Some sentences are a bit wordy (“The name of the operation became for a time, the Seven Dwarfs, though it had nothing to do with the number seven or the Disney movie with those characters”). But the compact book is a quick read and Shear appears to know his scientific stuff. Tech-heads should relish lines like this one: “She repurposed the semiconductor substances used in computers to become the gatekeepers between two opposing mutually annihilating states of matter.” The ending is a doozy of a cliffhanger, suggesting a fourth book is in the offing.

A smart but uneven espionage tale.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2017
Page count: 220pp
Publisher: BigWhitePaperPublishing
Program: Kirkus Indie
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