John Marrs delivers another fast-paced thriller with a compelling science fiction twist that stretches our imagination into a high tech and biotech future. In a world where governments are being hacked and held to ransom for their secrets by a group of cyber terrorists called the Hacking Collective, the UK has had to change its strategy yet again. The story starts with the Hacking Collective destroying the UK’s latest security defences and leaving their sensitive information prone to exposure. To give them time to rebuild their cybersecurity infrastructure, they have a bold plan to recruit individuals where the nation’s secrets can be stored by implanting coded information into their brains. The ideal individuals for this unique project are men and women who live with a condition called synaesthesia, which exhibits multisensory capabilities that significantly overlap with the incredible benefits of advanced recall and learning – perfect hosts for storing the country’s top secrets in implantable DNA.
The individuals are called “Minders”, and they commit to five years of service, leaving their past behind and taking new identities. The obvious reward is an opportunity to be millionaires when they finish the programme, but they are also people running away from dire, abusive, and regretful lives. The story cycles through the POV of five individuals selected for the programme, each with a fascinating background. What was excellent is that everyone in the group is equally compelling with a range of fascinating situations that added superbly to the story. The impact of implantable information on the individual’s conscious and subconscious mental state is another element of the story that contributes to its appeal.
After intensive physical and mental training, they are transferred to new locations around the UK where they have to integrate into communities but never getting close to anyone. They need to stay vigilant, inconspicuous, and always keeping friendships at arm’s length. Such a difficult proposition for human beings, and John Marrs is brilliant at crafting and using this desire, to keep the suspense of always wondering if the new person in your life, is a friend or foe. This aspect of the story already had me hooked, but when their handler is brutally murdered, and the Minders realise that someone is now hunting them, the thriller kicks into top gear and keeps going to the last page.
The plot is full of intrigue and suspense and had a few ways to go regarding who the murderer was and their motivation. All the options I considered felt valid, and yet surprises still caught me off-guard. I am hugely impressed with this thriller, perhaps because it added to my enjoyment of realistic science fiction. However, maybe it’s not too far off nowadays, with autonomous vehicles and DNA manipulation.
I would highly recommend this book, and I would like to thank Berkley Publishing Group and NetGalley for providing me with a free ARC in return for an honest review.