An experienced detective takes on an enigmatic shadow organization in Runkis’ (Three Proofs That God Exists, 2019) dystopian thriller.
In 2056, legendary investigator Willy J. Morro is brought out of retirement at the request of a U.S. senator. She needs the 91-year-old criminologist to help track down the Yuendi, a mysterious criminal organization that’s recently killed several operatives by somehow vaporizing them. The Yuendi—aka the Brotherhood of Chaos—has also been responsible for a string of unusual terrorist acts, such as jamming transportation computers to cause massive traffic jams; as Yuendi expert Ward Baxter thinks, “No one knew how many there were, where they came from, when they got started, or, more importantly, what on God’s green earth they were trying to accomplish—apart from mayhem and mass destruction for destruction’s sake.”
Forty-eight-year-old Special Agent Bill Macalister from the U.S. Department of Justice has been assigned to play the sidekick to Morro’s grizzled veteran. Unbeknown to the former, Morro has reason to suspect that the Yuendi may have something to do with UFOs—and a government conspiracy to cover up their existence. The two investigators, plus Baxter and microbiology researcher Mary Jamison, must get to the bottom of the mystery, which involves a possibly mythical object called the Golden Cord of Arram.
Runkis’ prose is curt and moody, which is in keeping with the author’s self-aware riff on detective fiction: “It was a large eucalyptus that was now badly charred and broken. Before the blast…it must have stood twenty meters high. It now terminated about three meters above the ground, all charred and splintered.” Morro, in particular, is a welcome addition to the stable of smug-but-capable investigative geniuses—in part due to his advanced age, and his oft-stated desire to celebrate his 150th birthday.
Despite the novel’s familiar genre trappings, it’s rather ambitious in its themes, and as the plot ramps up, it goes in unexpected directions. Although the tale goes to some unnecessarily dark places, its mix of conspiracy and crime fiction makes for a generally entertaining and occasionally thought-provoking escape.
A stylish story in which investigators aren’t afraid to get in too deep.
— Kirkus Reviews