The Descartes Evolution, by N.J. Croft

Eight stars

Eager to sink my teeth into something with a little pep, I turned to this book by N.J. Croft. Full of mystery and intrigue, it also opens up the world of terrorism and unique weapon technology in a story that will have readers flipping pages until they reach the climactic finish. N.J. Croft has done it again, stunning readers with a story that seems to come out of nowhere with influences that are, quite literally, out of this world. Recommended for readers who have enjoyed Croft’s work in the past, as well as those who prefer terrorism thrillers.

Jenna Young always knew that she was special, particularly when her father explained that she had a rare, genetic illness that could only be managed with experimental medication. When he died in a car accident, Jenna receives a letter from him through his solicitor, asking that she see one of his colleagues for more of her medication, using the codeword ‘Descartes’. Unsure what to do, Jenna visits a friend and confides that she needs help, revealing all she knows. The next day, her friend is found murdered.

Luke Grafton has been keeping an eye on a group using the name Conclave, sure that they are behind the staged suicide of his father years before. Luke will stop at nothing to dismantle them, hoping that he can learn their truth purpose along the way. When members of Conclave appear to target a young woman, Luke does all he can to save her, while remaining unsure what Jenna Young might have that they want.

On the run, Luke and Jenna forge an unlikely connection. Jenna shares her news and wonders what ‘Descartes’ might have to do with everything, which triggers Luke to dig a little deeper. It would seem that Conclave have been working on something experimental, potentially useful in a terrorist attack. Descartes, its codename, seems to have had some success during testing on the African continent, but no one is quite sure when or where it will be unleashed.

Off her medication, Jenna begins to feel a lot different, though she cannot entirely understand why. Could it be that her illness is taking over her body? When Luke makes note of it, both he and Jenna realise just how important she could be the Conclave and the larger Descartes mission. That will mean they must stay one step ahead of everyone, while also not resting on their laurels.

This is another stellar piece by N.J. Croft, which keeps the reader attentive until the very end. There’s action throughout and even a few moments of cheesy romance for those readers who enjoy that in their thrillers. Posing some moral and ethical questions along the way, Croft keeps the reader wondering until all comes together in the final reveal.

Jenna Young and Luke Grafton play wonderful dual protagonists in this piece. Coming from vastly different backgrounds, their personal stories are developed throughout the narrative, while they appear to develop effectively as the story progresses. Both have had death befall them, though neither can adequately explain what’s happened or how things will turn out. As with many Croft pieces, there are sparks and something blossoms, though this cannot (and should not) deter them from focussing their attention on the task at hand.

There is an effective secondary cast throughout the book that complements the protagonists, as well as helping to shape the larger story. With a few key subplots, these individuals serve to push the narrative forward in a number of ways. Great dialogue banter and effective action on the page shows that Croft has been able to properly manage the direction of the piece through the supporting cast on offer. As many of the novels are standalones, there is little chance of reemergence, forcing each character to make their mark in this single novel.

The story as a whole was quite thought provoking and kept me wanting to know more. The thrills were apparent throughout the piece, taking the reader through many twists and turns, leaving little time to catch one’s breath.

In those few lulls, Croft takes the reader into something more for the soft hearted reader, with a few romance scenes that do not add much to the overall depth of the piece. I get the desire to (pardon the pun) flesh things out a bit, but it seems more filler than useful for my reading experience.

With a mix of chapter lengths, the reader can find themselves riveted and pushing forward to see where things are headed, while stopping should the need arise.

Even as a standalone, the novel has all the reader could need with a strong story, well presented characters, and a twist at the end that will baffle at least a handful.

Kudos, N.J. Croft, for another winner. I always enjoy your novels and cannot wait to see what’s next in line!

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