Interference, by Brad Parks

Eight stars

Be sure to check for my review, first posted on Mystery and Suspense, as well as a number of other insightful comments by other reviewers.

Brad Parks is never one to lead the reader down a straightforward path in his thrillers, and Interference does not buck this trend. A seemingly mysterious medical ailment turns into something a lot more impactful as the story progresses, straddling the line between thriller and quasi-sci fi at times. With a race to discover the truth and a time limit imposed by a hostage taker, this is one book that does not have time to rest on its laurels. Perfect for the reader who needs a little science in their thriller reader experience.

Brigid Bronik has been enjoying her life, even with some of the hurdles its tossed in her direction. When she receives word that her husband, Matt, has collapsed at work, she is frantic. His apparent seizure is nothing that Brigid can understand, but she’s not alone. Doctors have no clue as to what might have befallen Dr. Matt Bronik. He’s a quantum physicist, so it’s not as though he’s come across anything that could knowingly have caused this inexplicable medical issue.

When it happens again a few days later, Brigid is beside herself. It’s only then that Matt admits that he has been working on something top secret for the Department of Defence. It would seem that America is dabbling in quantum viruses, particularly of the tobacco mosaic variety. This means little to everyone who is listening, but Matt assures them that there’s something going on.

After Matt goes missing when he’s seen being carted off by some EMTs, Brigid is as panicked as ever. Bringing in the assistance of New Hampshire State Police Detective Emmet Webster, Brigit tries to pass along what she knows. Detective Webster is not entirely clear on what’s going on, but soon realises that there’s more to the story than even he can handle. Matt’s post-doctoral student goes missing and the ‘kidnappers’ are soon proven to have been sleek in their plan to remove Matt from the premises.

It would seem the tobacco mosaic virus has a form of entanglement theory woven into it, a term from quantum physics that refers to the interconnectivity of two particles, no matter how far apart they are, reacting and sensing one another. As Brigit and her group inch closer, it seems as though Matt knows they are coming and pushes away a little more.

When a ransom demand is made to a local billionaire who had been courting Matt Bronik for some other work, a set of events is set in motion that could blast things wide open. It would seem Matt Bronik is at the centre of a suspicious game of cat and mouse, where numerous people would benefit from his disappearance. While Brigit is not entirely sure who she can trust or where to turn, she can only hope to ‘interfere’ with the master plan enough to bring Matt home safely.

I have read a few pieces by Brad Parks before and they never fail to pull me in. While the subject matter is sometimes far outside my comfort zone, I always learn a great deal and find that the thrilling plot and quick pace keep me needing to know more in short order.

Brigit Bronik is well placed at the centre of the story, though I would argue that she shares the spotlight with Emmet Webster throughout. Both have had significant things happen in their lives (Webster most recently) that shape their outlook and how they approach the current Matt Bronik disappearance. The story permits them both to grow and develop, though their outlook when it comes to the case at hand could not be more different. Working together and in tandem, Brigit and Detective Webster uncover truths throughout this story and will surely keep the reader intrigued.

Parks has so many moving parts in this piece that there is a need for a strong set of secondary characters to keep the subplots alive. Parks develops them well and keeps the reader intrigued with how they complement one another or serve a small, independent purpose. From Chinese nationals to a seemingly innocuous physics professor who enjoys chasing skirts whenever he feels the need, each character that appears plays an integral role in understanding the larger picture here. Parks supports them to the point that the reader cannot help but be a little curious, which makes for a wonderful story.

While some of the plot lines seem to be tied to scientific phenomena, Brad Parks does not write in such a way so as to lose the reader along the journey. The narrative gathers momentum, but explains things as they progress, turning highly technical terms into digestible educational moments. The reader is kept attuned to all the developing storylines and can follow along with ease. Character interactions are key to this story, which is told from both the Brigit and Emmett Webster perspectives. The split narrative is a key aspect of the book, opening the reader’s eyes to more than they might ave expected. With short chapters that keep the cliffhangers coming, there is little time to digest things before the next plot twist comes along. This is the kind of story that will have readers up late into the night, begging for ‘a little more’. I cannot wait to see if this is the start to something bigger, a short series perhaps. I’d surely be game!

Kudos, Mr. Parks, for another winner. You have such a way with words that I hope to go back and check out some more of your work, when time permits.

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

The Last Act (Last Act #1), by Brad Parks

Eight stars

After thoroughly enjoying my first venture into the world of Brad Parks—a prequel short story—I thought I would take a dive into the complementing full-length novel. For fans who remember how The Whistleblower ended, this is a wonderful means of continuing to discover more about the life and choices of Mitch Dupree. With Dupree locked away, the Mexican cartel he sought to uncover wants his head, but he was smart enough to hide away some key documents in an undisclosed location. The Feds want access and will use this to bring down the largest distributor of crystal meth in the United States. To do so, they turn to Tommy Jump, a musical theatre actor who has been down on his luck. Asking him to perform in his most daring role yet, Jump will have to go undercover and befriend Mitch Dupree, learning where the documents are being stored. However, this is easier said than done, even for a man who prides himself on being able to handle any role. Life in prison, even minimum security, is nothing like he expected. The large payout will help his pregnant fiancée, but will it be enough. Using a pseudonym, Jump enters the prison system and tries to nonchalantly get closer to Dupree. The Feds are on the outside, willing to help, but so is the cartel. They have approached Dupree’s wife and made their own threats, making the cache of documents all the more important. With Jump wanting to get this acting job complete, he will do most anything to learn Dupree’s secret, but will it come at a price that costs him a curtain call? Parks does a masterful job of taking the reader inside the world of prisons, cartels, and continues the action surrounding a massive money laundering scheme. Recommended to those who love thrillers with a twist and the reader who may enjoy prison-based novels. While not essential, it helps to have read the prequel short story for the nuanced details.

I always enjoy finding new authors and Brad Parks is one that will remain on my radar. Both the short story and this novel are full of great detail and intriguing storytelling, keeping me hooked from the opening pages through to the impactful ending of this piece. Parks uses another soft-hearted character as a protagonist, this time with Tommy Jump. A struggling actor who is trying to make it in the cutthroat world, his fiancée pregnant with their first child, Jump will do most anything to advance himself. With a massive payout and the chance to help the Feds, Jump leaps at the chance to help. He must know his target, Mitch Dupree, but also pretend not to know anything about him. As the novel progresses, Jump learns the ins and outs of prison life, as well as the place Mitch Dupree has made for himself in short order. The reader is also able to learn a little more about Dupree, who is trying to get through this sentence for a crime he did not commit. He knows the truth and yet cannot prove anything. Wanting to blow the whistle, he does not yet have enough to ensure his family’s safety once and for all. This novel gives the reader more time to connect with him, even while he is not the main focus. The secondary characters do serve a great purpose and entertain as well as educate. Working the angles of prison life, the looming cartel, and trying to decipher the details of the financial crimes, the reader can use the strong collection of characters to weave their way through the story. The story was strong and left me feeling fully invested in the piece. I can only hope that there is more to come, both in this story, and with more Parks that I can enjoy. I see major awards and at least one full series into which I can sink my teeth. I hope others will follow my lead or fans of the author will look into this series.

Kudos, Mr. Parks, for a great continuation of this series. I am eager to get my hands on more of your writing!

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

The Whistleblower: A Short Story (Last Act #0.5), by Brad Parks

Eight stars

Trying a new author, I thought I would venture in slowly with a short story. Brad Parks seems to have quite the accolades attached to his writing and so launching into a new series seems to be the way to go. Mitch Dupree is a happy-go-lucky kind of guy, with a nice family and a fairly straightforward way of living. Hired to work in the Latin Division of the Union South Bank, he oversees many transactions every year. When a collection of Mexican transfers appear somewhat sketchy, he tries to alert his superior, but is only rebuffed. Further investigation makes it appear there could be cartel involvement and some money laundering, though no one else seems to notice or care. After doing his research, Dupree is prepared to blow the whistle on all of this, but begins to notice odd things happening around him. He prepares to go to the authorities as things heat up, though there is something he could not have expected waiting for him around the bend. An intriguing introduction to Parks and his writing, with this short story serving as a series prequel. Recommended to those who like a quick bang for their buck (no pun intended) and the reader who can handle a little financial thriller.

I enjoy finding new authors, especially when they have a collection of work from which to choose. Brad Parks is one such author, having won many awards for his writing. This new series looks to have a legal and financial angle to it, something that I know well and another area that remains foreign to me. Mitch Dupree is an interesting character and seems to want to do the right thing. In the world of banking, it is profit that drives the overall direction. But, must there not also be a degree of ethics? Here is where Dupree finds himself straddling two worlds. His determination to do the right thing can get him into more hot water than simply looking away. Dupree is sure to have some interesting follow-up in the first novel of the series and I am eager to see more of his character development. In a short story, it is more difficult to connect to non-protagonists, as was the case here. However, these secondary characters do serve a great purpose, fuelling an interesting story of financial intrigue and dubious laundering. Dupree’s character is complemented by these others and there are surely some great threads left untied, allowing storylines to continue into the novel. The story was strong, even with it being short, and left me wanting more. What will happen to Mitch Dupree and will the fallout from the end of the short story develop into a chance for vendetta and retribution?

Kudos, Mr. Parks, for a great start to a series. My initial introduction to your writing is surely positive and I cannot wait to continue.

This book fulfils Topic #5: Short is Not Bad of the Equinox #8 Book Challenge.

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