In The Tower, the third and final novel in Toyne's Sancti Trilogy, we meet Joe Shepherd. While still a student at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Shepherd is temporarily given the qualifications of a full FBI agent, in order to allow him to assist with an investigation. Recently, a cyber-attack was mounted against the command center for NASA's Hubble Telescope, leaving the orbiting machine unusable. Even worse than the attack itself is what investigators discover at the center. The American scientist who oversaw the Hubble project is nowhere to be found. Left behind is a countdown clock and the message on his computer, "Mankind Must Look No Further."
Shepherd investigates with his teacher turned partner, Benjamin Franklin, and uses his unique knowledge of the scientific community (he was once a student working as a NASA intern) to uncover clues to the mysterious events. But as he begins to find answers, more questions arise. There seems to be a religious connection to events that occurred months earlier, at the Citadel, a monastery that lies within the Turkish city of Ruin. All signs point to these strange events, leading Shepherd to race against the clock to discover secrets that could potentially lead to the end of the world.
Readers of the previous novels will recall the American reporter, Liv Adamsen and the ex-special forces operative, Gabriel Mann, who were the main focus of those stories. They appear in this novel, as well, and we begin to see the connections of their story to the events taking place in America. As the novel progresses, we see Gabriel struggle to fight against the strange blight, a plague like disease that originated in the Citadel and slowly spreads through Ruin, and find Liz, trapped in the deserts of southern Asia. All three characters face their own troubles, as they soon intersect into a thrilling end.
Throughout this trilogy, Simon Toyne has managed to successfully maintain a commitment to relatable characters, thoughtful plotting, and page-turning pacing. This combination has made his novels thrillingly entertaining to read. The opening of this novel takes a bit of time to get rolling, especially as it introduces the new character, Joe Shepherd. Fortunately, Shepherd continues the Toyne tradition of being believably flawed while still being interesting. As his story begins to take shape, the momentum of the inevitable ending begins to mount, and the story becomes completely engaging. While Toyne does a nice job of subtly providing some backstory, to fill in readers who missed the first two installments, there are parts of this story that simply will not work for readers who are coming into this novel without reading the others. Despite this, there are enough new characters and plot points to grab a new reader's attention. Overall, this series may not be perfect, but it is a remarkably effective form of entertainment by an author who has quickly become one of my favorites.
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(2013: week 25, book 25)
(2013: week 25, book 25)