A man stumbles into his grandfather’s world of spies and secrets in this novel.
Stonemason Michael Colt lives in a cabin in the small town of Hungry Point on the Mississippi River. Michael’s grandfather Nick raised him from infancy after his parents died in a car accident. When Nick mysteriously vanished about 10 years ago, Michael took over the family masonry business and settled into a relationship with Sue Kick, his childhood friend. Michael’s current struggle involves finding a literary agent to help publish his manuscript, which features stories Nick told him as a boy. R. Lee, one agent, calls his work “a collection of drivel,” leaving Michael confounded by the cruelty. What Michael doesn’t realize is that Nick had been a member of the Office of Strategic Services, the United States intelligence
agency that preceded the CIA. Some of Nick’s action-packed tales about a mysterious character called “the driver” contain classified information. Michael is dimly aware of his grandfather’s strange life based on the events leading up to his disappearance. And Michael, at the age of 15, found a corpse floating in the Mississippi. The body held a key, a photograph of a woman, and a notebook with pages missing. When similar events intrude on Michael’s adult life, he soon learns that Nick’s fate was intertwined with a top-secret scientific formula. Siwicki’s thoughtful, engaging thriller will remind genre fans of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series but with an SF touch. Siwicki begins with a philosophical essay on dreams that posits “We die when we sleep, and are re-born every time we wake.” From there, flashbacks to Michael’s teen years propel the compact series opener. The best prose comes from the driver’s exploits, as when “gunfire lit the tunnel like fireworks, and it cracked and echoed as an eruption of lead rained from the black car.” Michael’s search for a literary agent feels like an autobiographical insertion by the author, but Lee does prove necessary to the plot. Occasionally, characters soliloquize, which adds a campy tone. Several late-game twists promise to raise the stakes in the sequel.
This odd but effective marriage of thriller and SF should enamor both genres’ fans.