Mastermind is an intricately crafted spy adventure by Australian author Helen Goltz that will keep you guessing right up to the last page. The premise is quite clever and multi-layered, involving a variety of characters who are readily acceptable yet not necessarily predictable. There is quite a bit of high tech involved as this is based on the idea of a high stakes, exclusive, Internet game where entrants submit what they think is “the perfect crime” and then 6 are selected to play for keeps off-line. The mastermind behind the scheme is bored billionaire Lawrence Hackett who sends out his board members from his corporate headquarters in London, England, to supervise 6 different Mastermind teams in various locations around the world.
This is Book 1 in the Mitchell Parker crime thriller series. Mitch is a team leader for the FBI’s Trans-National Crime Unit. He carries some personal baggage from his childhood that surfaces in nightmares when his schedule becomes erratic and days merge one into the other. Working with him on a tip-off to strange shenanigans in a university lab in Washington, D.C., are Samantha (Sam), Ellen (Ellie), Jameson (J.J.), and their boss, John Windsor. Mitch also has a roommate, Charlotte, who is somewhat complicating his life, but in a good way.
Then, there are the players in the university lab. As Mitch and the team try to find out what kind of scam is being perpetrated, Mitch recognizes one of the players as his best friend growing up and through his air force years, Nick Everett. Even once they begin to unravel the boldness of what appears to be the planned theft of a planeload of gold, it still takes the team time to realize that the scheme extends far beyond this one bold scam in the U.S., and that there are 5 more crimes to prevent if time will allow. They have to come up with a way to uncover the involvement of a global corporation that is protected by layers of secrecy; a corporation that, in order to continue to protect themselves, will leave no witnesses behind. Mitch’s team must split up, information seems to have leaked, and the life or death responsibility of the team weighs heavily on Mitch.
There are many twists and surprises as the plot develops, and the various daring crimes are wonderfully inventive. There is also some romance thrown in along the way. Goltz certainly seems to know her ordinance and there are some tense flying scenarios that keep the reader up in the air. At the beginning of the novel, I had a bit of trouble following the setting/character changes which flip around between the boardroom, the FBI team, the D.C. crime team, and Mitch’s home life, as there are no asterisk divisions or anything like it other than extra spacing between them. However, I soon picked it up, and never looked back.
This is an extremely entertaining story with engaging characters, solid research, and lots of adventure. I’m looking forward to reading Book Two in the series, Graveyard of the Atlantic. * * * *
Mastermind is available at Amazon.ca and other fine book sellers.
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