It is 28 November 2026. Sharkey, a Viennese reporter, spends one tiresome evening with a drunken computer nerd. Three months later the man's unexpectedly glamorous widow calls - her husband had hinted that Sharkey might hold the information to explain his mysterious death.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
Mathews has written a tense and tightly written thriller set in Vienna, 25 years in the future. When an acquaintance dies in mysterious circumstances, jaded journalist Sharkey is persuaded by the alluring widow to investigate. The futuristic quest which follows takes him on a terrifying journey into the world of computer hackers, and reveals disturbing secrets about a long-standing genetic engineering programme. As he uncovers more and more clues to the truth, Sharkey is forced to reassess relationships, memories, even the roots of identity itself. This plot has more twists than a DNA string. (Kirkus UK)
Arriving on raves from Britain, Mathews's first novel is touted as a marriage of Blade Runner and The Third Man. Could any thriller live up to such advance billing? Well, like Greene's Harry Lime and Scott's replicant-chaser Deckard, Mathews's hero, society columnist Sharkey, has plenty of weight on the page, and his voice gives the story an exotic density of Weltschmerz and Schadenfreude woven amusingly with well-balanced electrono-pedantry and neo-Gibsoneque micrometric technojargon. ("In the breast pocket of the shirt was a C-series Bip-Bip Networker, powered by nanomechanical micro-reactors.") Tittle-tattler Sharkey is called by Petra Detmers, the supremely attractive, extremely pregnant widow of Leo Detmers, a man Sharkey met but once, who has been killed by a car in Vienna's Prater Park, scene of the sublime Ferris wheel episode in The Third Man. Petra has identified Leo's body at the hospital, where all his body parts were harvested, and she thinks her husband was murdered. That makes Leo quite dead, doesn't it? Will Sharkey help? The hack Sharkey says yes, but he isn't exactly brimming with the self-confidence one would hope for in someone setting out to fight a wrong: "I swear to God: If I wasn't such a shit, I'd hate myself," he informs us. The zither-dancing plot, set in 2026 during Vienna's first snowfall in seven years and larded with Plasmavision screens, Holocolor photos, and Saarinen tulip chairs, turns on eugenics and bioengineering and roots back through the Gulf War to the gruesome tinkering of Hitler's medical corps. The premise involves subjects of genetic experiments who have grown to adulthood - and a hero who may not be quite human himself. Tip-top charcoal character sketches, dandy dialogue, and atmospheric evocation of Vienna swimming in the dark waters of the future. The mood-showering prose slows the pace here and there, but that's little to pay for solid entertainment. (Kirkus Reviews)