The Tech, by Mark Ravine

Nine stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Mark Ravine and Dawn Hill Publications for providing me with a copy of this book, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

While author-peddled novels can be hit and miss for me, this debut thriller by Mark Ravine has all the ingredients for a stunning novel. Full of intrigue, mystery, and well-developed characters, this is one book that readers should give a second look, particularly those looking for a strong police procedural. Alexandra Cassidy has spent a number of years with the FBI, but does not seem able to curb her acerbic wit. When she is sent to Arizona to head-up a field office, Supervisory Special Agent (SSA) Cassidy is unsure what to expect. Her team is composed of the riffraff within the Bureau, agents from all over the country in a similar position to her own. Not long after she arrives in the office, SSA Cassidy is sent to join her team at the scene of a bank robbery. While things went down quickly, a clue leads the team to the assailants with ease. This is soon followed by a tip regarding a missing group of teenage girls, who are being shuttled out of the US and into a life as sex slaves. While SSA Cassidy loves the rush of solving cases, she cannot help but stumble when it comes to getting to know her team. They are leery around her, having recently lost their last supervisor without even a goodbye. In addition to the field agents is the IT tech, Michael Patterson, who seems eager to help however he can. Little does anyone know, but Michael has a secret weapon buried inside his office. He works with ‘Aisha’, an interactive computer program able to synthesise massive amounts of data and inch those on the team in the right direction. As additional cases make their way in front of SSA Cassidy, her superiors are pushing for more successful outcomes. There is a niggling feeling within the entire team that these cases, while seemingly independent, seem to be loosely tied together. Someone is pulling the strings and there is surely something lurking under the surface, a hidden crime that will surely blow everything out of the water. When SSA Cassidy begins to feel that someone within the Bureau is leaking information, thereby showing their hand to the criminal element, she moves quickly. Suspecting that Michael may be playing a role, Cassidy tries to slyly approach him. It is only then that the truth comes to light and Aisha’s services may be even more valuable. A stunning novel that will keep the reader flipping pages well into the night. Ravine captivates and shows that some authors have the gift from their earliest work. Recommended to those who love detailed thrillers that do not stop developing, as well as the reader whose interest in procedurals is well-established.

When I was contacted by the publisher to review this book, I was hopeful that it would be more than a tech-thriller, as I usually have many issues with the computer-filled lingo of such novels. I was pleasantly surprised and proved that I cannot judge a book by its title (or cover). Mark Ravine has put together a great, if long, thriller that will keep the reader hooked while they try to cobble together how a collection of cases can be tied to a single, faceless cabal. Alexandra Cassidy is a wonderful protagonist, whose backstory leaves her seeking stability. Having played musical chairs when it comes to FBI field offices, Cassidy wants to settle down and find her niche. This not only includes a happy workplace, but perhaps something more personal. She comes off as hesitant to open up, but wants desperately to do so. Ravine works this into the narrative, but also provides some wonderful character development. The reader will see how dedicated Cassidy is to the job and where she needs to work on her subtlety. With a number of strong characters, the story builds from the opening pages, offering complex subplots and interesting tangents, all of which work well as the momentum builds. There are so many names to remember that some readers might get lost, but they are essential to build the strong foundation of this novel. The story itself is quite straightforward, but will require some attention in order to see how the web of crimes all tie together. With a cabal working in the background, there is a larger mission here, one that SSA Cassidy must discover. With deception within the Bureau a possibility, the story takes some turns that might not have been initially expected, but this only adds to the intrigue and provides the reader with some added ‘what if’ moments. I was a little put off at the long chapters when first I opened the book, but came to realise that each encapsulates a case or a major concept that is needed to better understand the overall delivery. With ‘section breaks’ for various perspectives within each chapter, the reader has many spots for a break, though there will come a time when the story is clipping along so well that breaks will be unnecessary. Ravine has crafted a wonderful story here and I can only wonder if he will add to the series or perhaps some standalone of equal caliber. I cannot wait to see what’s next, hoping that readers will flock to this one for the time being.

Kudos, Mr. Ravine, for a powerful debut. You have a great writing future ahead if you can keep novels of this quality as part of your repertoire.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: