A review that originally appeared in The Third Alternative #24:-
Vintage pb, 312pp, £6.99
It’s 2026 in Vienna and newspaper columnist Sharkey goes on a drunken spree with Leo, a man he meets by accident, or so it seems. Later, when Leo is killed, his pregnant wife Petra contacts Sharkey and asks him to look into the matter. Investigative journalism isn’t his forte, but as he fancies Petra something rotten Sharkey agrees to see what he can uncover. Almost the first thing he learns is that Leo was a skilled hacker, with fibre optic fingers in several high risk pies, and one of the last things he did was probe the workings of a powerful bio-tech company in an attempt to learn the circumstances of his own birth. As Sharkey follows in Leo’s footsteps he is drawn into a conspiracy involving right wing extremists who advocate a proactive stance on genetic cleansing.
This is Orson Welles’s The Third Man revamped for the new century, not least because of the Viennese setting so compellingly realised and put to use in the book’s pages. There’s a noirish feel to Mathews’s work. His prose is scalpel sharp and peppered with phrases of a Chandleresque mordancy so that you read on eager to see what he’ll come out with next. The characters are well done, convincingly amoral and complex. The science sounds chillingly plausible and the incidental invention works well. The plot holds the attention from first word to last and, if it’s a bit predictable in places, it manages to deliver a few genuine surprises, particularly at the end. A first rate techno-thriller from a writer who shows real promise.