The Icarus Prediction is more of a Wall St./spy thriller than a murder mystery but I was intrigued by the mythical title and its sense of the ominous — Icarus being that character who was able to escape his prison by the use of wings, only to fly to close to the sun and become the first instance of the use of the term “crash and burn”. This is RD Gupta‘s first novel and I received a free ecopy of this book from KadaMedia Publishing via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.
Ex-CIA operative Jarrod Stryker is a hot-shot investment manager on Wall St., jockeying millions of dollars for the firm, Blackenford Capital Management, and its clients using a young, high-energy team with a wide range of skills. The heart of the team was Sergei, a Russian professor who had recently added Icarus, a temperamental computer
capable of taking disparate pieces of data like weather forecasts, and blog posts, and churn out creepily accurate financial recommendations analyzing billions of pieces of data per second. [It] even scoured social sources like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to help tailor research and maximize trading recommendations.
The prologue gives us some backstory: Beirut, 2006, Stryker’s CIA days — his last mission — teamed up with Sarah Kashvilli, the other Top Gun graduate from “the Farm”, both recipients of the CIA Blue Heart medal for valor. They are on a mission to protect a valuable asset, Tariq alFada. Tariq was under deep cover, and, while having gained the confidence of high-level members of al-Qaeda, he was getting nervous. So Jarrod and Sarah were covering his back in a meeting with one of the top players, Ramsa alShehhi, elder brother of one of the 9/11 perpetrators. Jarrod had already wired the warehouse where the meeting was to take place hours earlier. If Tariq came out of the meeting wearing his blue baseball cap, everything was fine; if not, they blow the building up. It was shortly after this assignment that Jarrod left the CIA and joined Blackenford.
Many times in a normal day, Jarrod’s CIA-acquired skills automatically kick in. His team gathers it’s own information. They subscribe to “a service of ‘watchers'”, and Jarrod, himself, will take off in the firm’s Gulfstream jet to confirm a rumour. One such rumour, and some back channel information from one of his CIA contacts about a food riot in a small village in Saudi Arabia send him off on just such a mission. Within a few days, Jarrod has confirmed the rumour of a new updated fleet of oil tankers, and the opening up of new oil from a massive field sitting waiting to be used. Putting all his intel together, first, there will be a drop in available oil as tankers go “offline” to be switched for the newer, larger tankers, therefore, a rise in price, then there will be a glut of oil on the market, prices will fall, and there’s billions to be made if he can buy the oil options before the tankers start to go offline. It’s a tight timeline that has to be played just right.
Added into the mix of this, Stryker becomes aware of extreme behaviour on the part of his boss, William Blackenford. His intel gathering switches to getting to the bottom of what’s up with the boss. The company cruise on Blackenford’s yacht — the Valkyrie — is cancelled, William hasn’t been going to his weekly bridge group at the yacht club, and profit bonuses haven’t been distributed; Stryker learns that the company fees at the yacht club are in arrears, as is the rent on their offices, and they’re about to be evicted. After just gaining $90M in the last month for the firm, Jarrod needs to find out from Blackenford what the problem is. What he learns floors him. He’s certain they are all doomed! Then, the glimmer of a plan hits him. It, put succinctly, involves betting the bank on oil without hedging the bet! Against all advice, he does it. Then, terrorists take out a pipeline in Georgia, Europe, with threats to take out another line within a few days. Jarrod has only seven days to prevent this happening before the deal closes out and everything is lost.
This is a fast-paced story with lots of interesting politics thrown in from the Middle East, and the machinations behind trading in the financial marketplace. I like the way the financial tactics and terms were all explained clearly and quickly without taking the reader away from the action. I also really liked the little maps that begin each episode away from New York city. I liked the main characters as well. Stryker has a lot of confidence but without any arrogance. He’s quick-thinking, and not easily intimidated. He looks out for the people working for him, and treats people with respect. He’s able to assess situations and adjust his attitude to suit. Sarah is an interesting character who comes in and out of his life, sometimes in surprising ways. She has a lot of baggage but is working her way out of it, partly through her CIA missions. And Sergei is a great addition to the mix. Other characters along the way help to flesh out the plot, adding tension and humour. I will be looking forward to the release of Omen of Icarus in 2017. * * * *
It’s very easy to participate in my Mystery Monday meme. Just post a review of your latest mystery read on your own site as your Monday post, and then a comment on my post with a link to yours. Drag or copy my meme logo and add it to your post along with these few rules. Simplicity itself! I look forward to learning about more great mysteries to add to my ever-growing list of To Be Read.