Pros: High tension and interesting twists
Cons: A few awkward bits
Rating: 4 out of 5
Thomas Waite’s Unholy Code (A Lana Elkins Thriller) is about terrorism, white supremacy, bigotry, love, and strength. Lana Elkins is the head of a major cyber-security company as well as a former NSA operative, meaning she has a whole lot of resources and contacts to throw into her investigation of a new act of terrorism. Several ISIS members allowed themselves to be captured all-too-easily. The bigotry and violence only get worse. Then Lana has to face something very personal: the violence gets aimed directly at her and her teenage daughter.
On characterization: I’m happy with most of the characters here. One of my favorites is the depiction of the white supremacist “Steel Fist,” or Vinko. He’s vile and horrible, but he’s smart and tech-savvy as well. That’s highly unusual in depictions of this sort of character. He’s the one who doxxes Lana and her daughter Emma, encouraging his many online followers to kill them. There’s a reason why Emma gets pulled into this: she’s dating a Muslim, Sufyan, and the two seem to be falling in love. Sufyan’s mysterious uncle Tahir desperately wants to split apart their relationship, and Lana isn’t sure where Tahir’s ultimate loyalties lie. I also like the late-in-the-game introduction of a very competent sheriff’s office–usually you get the ‘bumbling locals’ depiction, but in this case their local law enforcement knows what they’re doing and how to do it well.
There’s one character, however, that I didn’t like at all. It’s a woman who takes over temporarily for a sick agent. She’s the total stereotype of an ambitious shark of a woman ready to do whatever it takes to get what she wants–including threatening to stop payment of the medical bills for a character’s daughter who has cancer.
As seems to be the trend lately, the identity-unknown ultimate bad guy gets sections of first-person PoV so that we can get into the head of the mastermind. Apparently the bad guy has been sending lots of gambling ads to Lana, who’s in Gamblers Anonymous and trying desperately not to give in to her obsession. The bad guy figures it’s a great way to distract Lana from her investigation.
“Reality is getting so bizarre that I don’t see how satire can survive anymore.”
This is a feeling I’ve had of late as well, so it resonated.
There are just a couple of dialogue things that annoyed me. One is a rant Lana went on that was so long that I kept skipping ahead. In another case Lana had the weirdest reaction to a person she’s speaking with, mentally approving of the woman’s use of big words, as far as I can tell. It’s especially odd because she really should be focusing on what the woman is telling her. It also doesn’t fit with anything else in the book; it feels like it’s thrown in randomly.
There are a couple of places where it helps to have a strong stomach, largely due to a partial torture scene. Also, I’d think that jumping into salt water with some of your skin missing would be more painful than is reflected in the character’s reaction. (Nope: not gonna test that one out!)
Things get to be fast-paced, heated, and dangerous. I loved it. Apart from a few bits and pieces the pacing was spot-on for a thriller.
Book provided free by publisher for review
Expected publication date: July 12, 2016