Christian Cantrell's new thriller Scorpion is complex. In thinking this might be a casual Patterson or Child-esque romp through some far land with twists and turns, you'd be wrong. Cantrell is a strong writer with research skills one can only dream of. In aligning these two powerhouses of attributes he has crafted what must be the most intricate plots of the year.
The technological element is strong throughout with explorations in crypto and it's parent blockchain, nuclear-styled attacks on main cities, and coding to catch a mathematically minded killer. All strands (that could ultimately be their own story) tightly packed together in an almost crowded way. One needs to keep their wits about them just to keep up.
The characterisation and progression of dialogue is outstanding. Such control of the style by Cantrell in this area. He could flesh out the backstories a little more as it did feel a little undercooked on this front. The protagonist, Quinn Mitchell, is a highly intelligent CIA agent who is brought out from her posting behind a desk to track down the merciless killer.
Two others, Ranveer and Henrietta, round off the central beguiling trio of central characters. Ranveer, a highly successful and immaculate Iranian, and Henrietta, a very young and accomplished double PhD major with a penchant for cartoons.
A lot of events in the novel are far-fetched, not least of which is the meteoric rise in Quinn from a desk agent to being in the field for the majority of the novel. Similarly the fact that she is terrible at interrogation and cries in literally every questioning scene. Not an attribute one would suggest the CIA seeks out as part of the recruitment process.
The science is a little overwhelming at times. Not being au fait with such jargon meant a lot may have been missed on us mere mortals, but Cantrell does his best to explain some of the intricacies where pertinent.
As a narrative Scorpion’s plot races along meaning you will be consistently keen on finding out the next move for this intelligent but out-of-depth agent, Quinn Mitchell. There really isn't a dull moment.
Reviewer: Chris Reed
Penguin, RRP $37.99