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Skinner, the hero of this exceptionally smart thriller from Huston (Sleepless), gets his name from having been raised for the first 12 years of his life inside a Skinner box-a chamber devised by 20th-century psychologist B.F. Skinner to conduct behavioral psychology experiments on animals. A former CIA agent whose early isolation has made him particularly suited to the trade of killing, Skinner is now a highly paid security technician who specializes in guarding clients, known as "assets." One such asset is Jae, a genius analyst who likes to spend her time wandering an unnamed desert taking drugs and building tiny robots. The mysterious Terrence, who used to run the security firm Kestrel Dynamics, has worked up a solo operation for Skinner and Jae, which eventually leads them to a momentous discovery in the streets of Dharavi, a slum in the city of Bombay. Stunningly original characters, wildly surprising twists, and an ending that's both unexpected and moving make this an extraordinary genre stand-alone. This is the sort of book you want to reread just to see how the trick was done. Agent: Simon Lipskar, Writers House. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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Huston's (Sleepless; The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death) new stand-alone thriller is scary in its timeliness. Skinner is a hired gun whose sole job is to protect his "asset." His maxim is "the only true way to secure an asset is to ensure that the cost of acquiring it is greater than its value," and he is willing to die for it. His current assignment is Jae, a young robotocist who can see the patterns in anything and everything. She once worked for Kestrel, a private contracting firm, but left when she was betrayed. Now she's been asked by her former handler, Terrence, to take on a new assignment from Kestrel. Along with the assignment comes Skinner. A man who will do anything-and already has-to get the job done. Verdict To say much more about the plot would ruin it for readers. In order to enjoy the suspense, Huston's careful layering of the story should be read without much foreknowledge. Suffice it to say, the recent revelations about data mining are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what is going on in the world of spying. Add in missing nukes, hacking, drones, terrorists, and a host of other threats, and readers may come away from this novel a bit more paranoid: it's all just too plausible. This is a must for fans of John le Carre and Olen Steinhauer.-Jane Jorgenson, Madison P.L., WI (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
*Starred Review* This tour de force features two of the most interesting characters we've seen in years. Skinner, a savant-like killer who struggles to interpret emotions and to speak with normal affect, spent his formative years as part of a bizarre experiment an origin story that unfolds piece by broken piece, each one with fascinating complications. His job is to protect Jae, a damaged, emotionally fragile robotics expert and data analyst with an amazing capacity to sift meaning from massive streams of information. She's supposed to find the source of an attack on the U.S. power grid. But the motives of the people who've hired them are maddeningly elusive, and, as the job leads them through Europe toward an unlikely plot in a Mumbai slum, they have to wonder whether they're pawns in one of the most circuitous bait-and-switches of all time. Huston's world, where powerful private security firms battle each other for access to the new markets created by global chaos, is cynical, chilling, and eminently believable. The plot itself may be a bit of a stretch, but this is mind-bendingly original, from the characters, to the dialogue, to the sensory-overloaded world that feels eerily like the one we're about to live in. Add Huston (Sleepless, 2010) to the A-list.--Graff, Keir Copyright 2010 Booklist