Antony Johnston introduced us to his new spy, Brigitte Sharp, in The Exphoria Code. Sharp is an elite hacker who also has the special training that allows her to go into the field on special missions. The first book took his hero on a roller coaster ride of ups and downs.
Ups: She got to run around Europe going under cover, finding moles, kicking people’s butts and saving the day at the last second like a modern day James Bond.
Downs: She nearly got her family killed and came thisclose to letting a bunch of Westminster bigwigs get blown up. It’s been quite the year for Brigitte, or Bridge to her friends.
When we see her in The Tempus Project, she’s still dealing with the fall out of the last book. Her family, with whom she’s always had a shaky relationship now wants nothing to do with her, and she’s up for promotion but finds she still needs to prove her qualifications to the old boy network in charge.
The story begins with an investigation of a Russian hacking operation before morphing into a race to stop the release of classified governmental memos, emails and other files on a scale previously unseen. One of the highlights is a section set behind the scenes at a G20 conference. Rather than a typical thriller scene of running through a conference to stop an assassin, we see a race to the server room to stop a computer virus from ravaging the laptops of hundreds of international officials. The fact that it’s more exciting than it sounds is a credit to Johnston’s integration of technology in his story.
Johnston seems a more confident writer in this book with his various story threads flowing smoother than his first book. He also digs deeper into Bridge’s struggles with the increased scrutiny and responsibility being placed on her. On the one hand, it’s exactly what she wants – to be the one in charge. On the other, it means learning to give up control and come to terms with the fact that being the leader of a team means everything can’t always go your way, whether you’re right or not.
Johnston’s cracked the code on how to make a keyboard warrior into an exciting spy. The “techno-thriller” has a tendency to focus on the hardware and give the software a lot of hand waving. Missiles and guns lend themselves towards exciting climaxes easier than computer coding. However, Johnston has found a way to make it both understandable to the layman and an interesting piece of the plot. By slightly shifting the focus so the technology is given as equal a spotlight as the running and jumping, he’s found a way to give espionage fans something they didn’t realize they were missing – the computer geek spy. Given the realities of how important technology is in modern intelligence operations, he won’t be light on potential plot ideas for book three.
TL;DR: Conflicted, yet competent. Smart, but not perfect. Bridge is the spy hacker hero we didn’t know we needed.