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WesternSFA


Scorpion
by Christian Cantrell
Random House, $27.00, 336pp
Published: May 2021

Scorpion takes place in an undisclosed future, when a nuclear disaster has changed the nature of world politics, where technology has resulted in the underground trading of information, where an offshore haven has been constructed for those hiding from the law, and much more.

Quinn Mitchell was a nine-to-five intelligence analyst for the CIA during the day, and a wife and mother on evenings and weekends. After her young daughter is killed in a tragic accident and Quinn's marriage falls apart, she throws herself into her work until the division she is working with dissolves.

She is offered a new assignment, investigating a series of bizarre international assassinations in which the victims were found with numeric codes tattooed, burned or carved into their flesh.

Quinn is an analyst, not a field agent, so she hesitates to take on the job; but she's good at seeing patterns and, as much as she loathes the idea of chasing a killer, she can't deny that there is something going on here that keeps dragging her closer. As Quinn follows the killer’s trail across the globe, always one body behind, she begins uncovering disturbing connections between the murders and herself.

Every lead she tracks down in pursuit of the assassin brings Quinn one step closer to the Epoch Index, a mysterious encrypted message discovered in the archives of the Large Hadron Collider. It links the murders and all the characters closely involved. Discovering the meaning of the Epoch Index leads Quinn to a shocking twist that shatters everything she thought she knew about the past, the future, and the delicate balance of right and wrong that she must now fight to preserve.

For most of the book, Scorpion follows two character threads. The first is that of Quinn Mitchell, as she tries to find meaning in her life and her pursuit of the elite assassin. Meanwhile, Cantrell also has us following the killer himself, drawing out the suspense and tension of each hunt, all while leaving the motivations of the crimes to be discovered.

At the core of Scorpion is a really compelling ethical dilemma with no easy answer.

The author puts a lot of life into his characters. Quinn is smart and full of self-doubt but her emotional baggage brings a very human feeling to who she is. Henrietta, a quirky young physics prodigy whose knowledge extends well beyond her years, also has a tragic past. Ranveeer the assassin, a fascinating creation, rich, unusual, and hard to pin down, only increases his mystery until we get explanations that draw it all together.

There were a few places that the tech speak was a bit hard to follow for me, but the overall story was well done and the characters well-fleshed-out. If you like science, technology and a good spy drama with twists and turns, then this is the book for you.

With the way the story ended, I would not be surprised to see a sequel in the undisclosed future. I'd look forward to reading it. ~~ Dee Astell

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