As the novel opens, Arthur Cathcart and his partner and lover, Natsumi Fitzgerald are ensconced on their 36’ boat in Caribbean waters. They are indisputably unique protagonists: He, bald and in his forties, holds a Masters in Applied Mathematics, doing freelance market research; she, a tiny woman who is a former blackjack dealer, is almost equally adept as he in her hacking abilities and knowledge of clandestine technology. Together they have used dozens of different IDs, aliases, and stolen identities, with the necessary passports, drivers’ licenses, bank accounts, etc. for each. But these somehow do not prevent mercenaries from finding them, capturing and interrogating them, somehow allowing them to live before disappearing. The rest of the novel turns on discovering the identity and motives of these people.
The multi-award-winning author has written ten previous mysteries, including two other series and one standalone. In the first book in this series, Arthur and his wife were both shot in the head by a man who was a complete stranger to them. His wife is killed instantly; Arthur is left for dead and remains in a coma until, against all odds, he recovers, but as far as the rest of the world is concerned, he has succumbed to his severe injuries and died. (“The bullet went straight through, skimmed the frontal and took out a piece of the parietal and somatosensory cortex.”) After meeting Natsumi, he manages to slip into “a shadow world” of his own making, “in exile but comfortably so.” The title derives from Arthur being told “You need to figure a way out of this . . . It’s no way to live.” Arthur: “I hoped there was a way to live . . . because there sure seemed to be plenty of ways to de.” And the number “a billion” comes into that equation, quite literally.
Arthur is a brilliant man living with “the curse of the analytic mind” and well aware of “the benefits of paranoia in the pursuit of personal security. . . Our ability to slip unnoticed through the world was well served by the bored and resentful.” One need only look at the headlines on any given day to see the proliferation of security breaches, on an international basis.
The cast is varied, from FBI agents to Bosnian gangsters and everything in between. The reader is kept intrigued, to say the least, especially to those of us not of the “nerd” persuasion. This is the third in the series, after “Dead Anyway” and “Cries of the Lost.” It is thoroughly entertaining and every bit as good as the ones that preceded it and, like those, is highly recommended....Continua