The Fulcrum (Zack Wilder #0.5), by N.J. Croft

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to N.J. Croft for providing me with a copy of this novel, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

I was pleaded and excited when N.J. Croft asked me to personally read a copy of her latest publication, a novella to begin a new and exciting series. Always one to push the limits of science and add a powerful thriller to propel the story forward, Croft has again found success in this piece. When FBI Agent Zack Wilder is contacted by an old Army buddy, he’s intrigued. The man was the sole survivor of a plane crash that is not quite as it seems. Pushing a little deeper, Agent Wilder discovers that there were some experiments being undertaken by a group known as The Fulcrum, one Wilder knows all too well. After coming face to face with a woman from his past, Wilder realises that there’s more going on and no one is safe unless success is guaranteed. A chilling tale that paves the way for Croft’s new thriller series.

FBI Agent Zack Wilder wants nothing more than a decent partner and regular work. Both of those wishes are stymied when he is assigned a new partner who has targeted him for harassment and outright criticism. When Wilder receives a random call from an old friend he knew during his time in the military, it’s time for a meeting. Little does Wilder know, but it’s about to open a can of worms like no other.

Sergeant Ethan Hawkins tells the story of a mysterious plane crash that killed everyone else on board, all members of Wilder’s former military unit. While it’s being reported as an accident, Hawkins is sure there is more to the story and that it was an attempt to wipe everyone out. Wilder listens and discovers that Hawkins had been subject to debilitating headaches prior to the trip. Could there be a connection?

While trying to keep Hawkins safe, Wilder and his partner seek to put some of the pieces together. They soon encounter Layla Perrault, who is an old friend of Wilder’s and is the first to blow the lid on his ‘orphanage upbringing’. Wilder and Layla were both handed over by their parents to The Fulcrum, a group seeking to hone the intelligence of families, particularly their children. It would seem The Fulcrum has been using soldiers in some of their new technology testing, seeking to create those who have no free will and can do anything they are told.

As Wilder digs a little deeper, he discovers that it’s got something to do with controlling the brain with a tiny device. This may seem innocent enough on the surface, as the technology has been used to help others in a variety of situations, but in the hands of the wrong people and it could be deadly. Wilder must try to bring The Fulcrum down, knowing full well the power they possess and the implications of his learning too much. A wonderful way to begin a new and exciting series for N.J. Croft.

While science and scientific discovery has never been my area of greatest interest, N.J. Croft has always piqued my curiosity with the books she writes on the subject. There is much to her storytelling, which mixes scientific explanation alongside controversial uses, always sure to generate a stellar thriller. The story moved quickly and has just enough twists to keep the reader intrigued, particularly with the ending.

Agent Zack Wilder storms onto the scene effectively, offering a little backstory and some development to whet the appetite of any curious reader. He’s gritty and determined, but also hungry for answers, which propels his investigation and the story forward. Croft has left many threads dangling, which i hope will be handled as the series progresses.

Strong supporting characters offer the reader some insight into what’s going on, while also pushing a number of questions to the forefront. There’s so much to learn and so many moving pieces, Croft hints at what is to come and challenges the reader to guess at the direction things will take.

While this was only an introductory novella, there was much action throughout. The backstory is developed well and there’s much left to the imagination for the time being. The narrative moves at a quick pace and allows the reader to gather some of the basic information, while also wondering what’s to come. Short chapters keep the reader on point and forging ahead, while the twists throughout keep the story from being too linear. I found the pace just to my liking and the ending opens up many possibilities about where The Fulcrum is headed and how the series might progress, given time.

Kudos, Madam Croft, for a great start to a series. I hope you have more with these characters soon, as I am quite curious.

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