This sci-fi thriller is a veritable (and truly magnificent) puzzle box of plot stings and twists, and I cannot recommend this book enough. Ask me to name an underrated author? Christian Cantrell. If you love Blake Crouch — you’re going to love Cantrell. His newest thriller Scorpion hooks from page one, snapping tension into place and holding it taut until the very end. The suspense won’t give you a heart attack, but only just.
Scorpion is set in a near-future rife with technological advances. Readers quickly find their feet as much of the world looks and feels like our own, and the technology steers clear of anything outlandish. There’s more than one plot string unfolding at once, and I will give you the (spoiler-free) rundown here as succinctly as possible:
Quinn Mitchell is an analyst for the CIA. Not just any analyst, she’s the best CIA Deputy Director Townes has got — although she’s never recovered from the accidental death of her daughter or the splintering of her marriage from a CIA field agent. Henrietta Yi is a brilliant (one-in-a-billion) physicist. Driven by her father’s death in a nuclear attack, she is now working for the CIA (also under Deputy Director Townes) on a top (top!) secret project. What is she doing that could be more important than preventing the next nuclear attack? Attempting to decode messages that appear to have come from the future. Yes, the future. This is a SF thriller, bookies, and one of the best I’ve read. Right up there with Blake Crouch’s Recursion. Okay, final plot string: Ranveer is an assassin (aka the Elite Assassin) who enjoys the good life (swanky hotel suits, fancy cars, and private air travel) and marks his victims with (maddeningly random-seeming) four-digit numbers. CIA analyst Quinn Mitchell is tasked with finding a pattern in the Elite Assassin’s seeming madness. How Henrietta Yi is connected, we don’t yet know. Even Quinn Mitchell does not have the clearance. But it will all come together, and oh, how your MIND WILL BE BLOWN.
The characters here are complex. Quinn. Ranveer. Henrietta. They’ve all got their story arcs and come with layers of backstory. Neither of the three is on the page to serve the story’s forward motion as a mere plot device. Instead, they drive the action of the thriller with choices that feel at every point genuine and true to their natures. And, oh, how it elevates this suspense read to something truly spectacular.
Scorpion is going up there among my list of five-star reads and must-read books of 2021.
Bonus: heart-stopping plot twists; time travel (bookies, you know I’m a goner for anything time travel); technology that will make the hearts of physics nerds soar, yet is so flawlessly woven into the narrative that your high-school transcripts don’t need to boast AP physics to massively enjoy what’s happening on the page.
Published: Michael Joseph
Publication Date: June 24th, 2021
Penguin Random House kindly sent me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion, rating, or the content of my review.