Review: Vector: Tradecraft: Phase Zero by Michael Shusko

★★★★½ Vector: Tradecraft: Phase Zero by Michael Shusko

Terrorist attacks, car chases, secret weapon research, a rugged hero and a determined doctor are just a few of the highlights in Vector, the addictive new thriller from Michael Shusko. The mysteries begin piling up early on, and the action-packed opening scenes grab readers by the throat and refuse to let go.

Lee Jansen and Emma Hess make quite a team, despite being two alpha experts who aren’t crazy about the idea of working together to crack the deadly case. The shadowy death of Jawad Khattib hints at impending doom for the entire Boston metropolitan area, but with few leads or clues, the pair must put their pride aside to unravel the mystery.

The clandestine “Order” and the sinister Architect both seem torn from a Bond movie, determined to unleash chaos on an unsuspecting world, and Shusko is careful to reveal their scheme in bits and pieces, never sharing too much, and keeping readers on the edge of their seat. For a police procedural, the book is surprisingly exciting, and the fast-paced, clever dialogue helps the flow of the story remain consistent, even during the interviews and traditionally slower parts of a thriller.

When the mystery of Khattib’s death deepens, more of the international plot comes to light. Terrorism rears its ugly head, in the form of a jihad founded on a powerful vector that can target specific groups of people based on their DNA. Though that sounds far-fetched on its face, this terrifying revelation is more than a twist in the story, but also a gut-clenching plot direction, given the state of the world at present. With the exception of the overly dramatic writing and larger-than-life villains, this tale could easily be ripped from the headlines.

As often happens in thrillers, the two inquisitive protagonists dig too deep, which lands a target on their own backs. Navigating the red tape of an investigation is not always Lee Jansen’s style, and Emma Hess has enough of a wild streak to go along with his off-protocol investigation style. Flying dangerously close to the sun brings the pair in direct conflict with the monstrous Architect, and it seems as though his horrific plan might actually succeed. Suffice to say, the last ¼ of the book is a non-stop roller coaster, and few readers will be able to stop before they reach the final page.

In the classic style of a thriller, the writing is choppy and economic, but not overly simplistic. The author wants to keep the pace up, but doesn’t compromise on clever turns of phrase and the occasional splash of humor. However, though Lee and Emma are interesting to watch as a team, but there is a lack of character development for both of them, with the exception of a few randomly placed exposition paragraphs that seem forced. Nonetheless, there are very few grammatical errors and its economy works in the book’s favor, as the short chapters roll into one another effortlessly, making it difficult to stop reading once you’ve begun.

Shusko has laid the groundwork for a gripping Tradecraft series, and given how Vector ends, readers can expect even bigger and more dangerous thrills in the books to come.

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Vector: Tradecraft: Phase Zero

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