Cut-Throat Syndrome is yet another well-written, well-crafted and well-delivered psychic suspense thriller in the Lance Underphal series.
I’d read the first book in this series, Dark Side of Sunset Pointe, a few weeks ago and was excited to dive back into the psychic mind of Lance by picking up Cut-Throat Syndrome—fourth book of this series that can be enjoyed as a standalone, too. Reading the synopsis and the first few chapters, I’d assumed this would be a mystery about some ChinaAir flight that had unfortunately been targeted by terrorists. A few more chapters ahead, I surmised this would be an interconnected brainteaser about the dark world of Internet, signalized through a hacker group called Vendetta, and a missing teenager. I kept going for a while and soon intelligence agencies, officers of these agencies, politically powerful people and loads of paranormal sequences also became a part of this story.
The best part of the book, let me mention it right off the bat, is how different it is from the previous work and in a really good way. While Dark Side Of Sunset Pointe disappointed me in terms of character development, Cut-Throat Syndrome worked the best in this aspect. A long list of names in addition to the previously featured ones—Lance, Sonja, Frank—made me wonder at the start if I would be able to connect to any of these. And I was. Though all aren’t given equal spotlights, neither should they be, all are able to contribute in some way or the other while rowing the boat. Not only this, everyone was portrayed three-dimensional by giving each of them their own doubts, own plans, own decisions and own mistakes. This was definitely the highlight of my reading process–understanding the characters for what they’re doing or feeling. It made them come alive to me and that’s the number one reason for me to recommend this book.
The graphically detailed writing was yet another strong point of this book. From Lance’s visions to Jake’s torture, everything was vivid enough and strengthened the narrative. The attempt to justify (or explain) the paranormal side of this world was a great one; wavelengths and frequencies worked to shift the supernatural assumption to a metaphysical reasoning. It’s rare to stumble upon a paranormal story that doesn’t let things happen in the name of ‘otherworldly’ occurrence, instead tries to give a scientific approach to the idea. Even the psychic talents were enhanced in this installment; while Lance was interacting with only dead people via his unnatural mind in Dark Side Of Sunset Pointe, here he’d leveled up his game. In addition to the dead, he now has abilities to communicate through the minds of those who are alive.
Another reason to read the book is for the end. I love open endings, if done right. More often than not, stories that are presumed to have an open ending are technically only rushing to write ‘THE END’ and leave all the strings loosely hanging. But this isn’t one of them. Apart from an ending that leaves me hurriedly turning pages while knowing deep inside that I’ve reached the last bit, the villains were another outstanding part of the climax. It’s difficult to praise this section while keeping the review spoiler-free so let’s sum it up: For a change, the bad guys here are genuinely powerful enough to force the protagonists, no matter how smart or strong they are, to act like any other human would…or should.
I usually don’t prefer too many things happening together in a book because I feel like things either take up a high note or go down completely. While nothing of this sort happened in Cut-Throat Syndrome—nothing worked negatively—I felt like the last bit seemed slightly sudden. Everything was quickly taken up in a philosophical—though reality still tangled in it—sense by the main characters; even though I loved the turn it had taken, I felt the pacing was a bit off. I would’ve preferred a steadily and subtly growing thought through the story instead of a single vision (and Sonja) making sense to Lance, and ultimately leading to his decision at the end. The half-star evaporated under the heat of this.
Overall, this is certainly one of those genre-benders that leaves the reader craving for more but still satisfied. I’m not currently aware of what follows Cut-Throat Syndrome in the Lance Underphal series but will keep an eye out for any possible sequel or spin-off.
This book is perfect for all those who love to read about real-world concepts integrated into a thriller sequence, conspiracy theories, with varied sub-plots and characters who change over the story, both in a good and bad perspective.
I received a free digital copy of this book by the author himself but that doesn’t, in any way, affect my review.