Deep in the Pacific Ocean, the mysterious Palmyra Atoll holds a secret. What appears to be a remote ecological preserve is actually the hidden base of Fractal: a secretive criminal organization that uses brainwashed foot soldiers to attack targets around the globe. An invisible hand guiding world events, Fractal has infiltrated the very governments that should be hunting them and have successfully hidden any trace of the organization’s existence. But their latest attack has gained the attention of CIA Division Head Maia Calderon, who believes there is more to the attack than everyone thinks.
While searching for his missing sister, resourceful engineer Will Taylor discovers evidence that points to Palmyra. There’s more to his war hero sister’s disappearance than anyone is telling him, but if he wants answers, he’ll have to journey to the heart of Fractal to find them. Together with rogue CIA officer Carter Callahan, Will sets out for Palmyra Atoll...
And the truth.
CURVE OF THE DRAGON is a riveting new spy series from debut author Matt Stokes. Episodic in nature, each of the four books tells a serialized part of a larger story. Inspired by the likes of James Bond, Mission: Impossible, and Alias, fans of espionage action and fast-paced thrillers will be right at home.
Stokes keeps the action at a full boil, with some inventively choreographed fight scenes. The opening chapter builds tension steadily, with an air of quiet menace that leads to a stunning and violent surprise. Elsewhere, the protagonists defend themselves imaginatively with, for example, a cross inside a church and a fire extinguisher. Technothriller fans especially will delight in a plane hijacking accomplished not with a gun, but with a laptop. Occasionally, the plot strains credulity—Fractal agents seem to be brilliant in one scene but are absurdly easy to fool in another—but some suspension of disbelief goes with the territory.
Although the focus is mostly on plot, the author offers some development for his lead character Will. There's a warm flashback scene showing Will with his sister, who's trying to let him know that she's moving into the intelligence world, without breaking her cover: “We’re going through some… changes at work." He and Carter develop an amusing and believable odd couple relationship, while Maia and Sebastian have a tentative flirtation: "Sebastian took Maia’s hand and went to kiss it—But she deftly turned it into a handshake instead." Indeed, the author neatly relieves the violence with a welcome dose of humor: a pair of agents get into an argument over the relative merits of kombucha and wheatgrass. With wit and derring-do, the characters move the plot forward to a cliffhanger conclusion, leaving readers eager for the next installment. Spy thriller fans will relish this one.
Takeaway: Fans of spy thrillers will revel in the original and handsomely staged action scenes while rooting for the engaging characters to persevere against their delightfully evil opponents.
Great for fans of: Tom Clancy, Clive Cussler.
Design and typography: A-
Marketing copy: B+