The year: 1814. On an American battlefield, a British scientist, George Napier, witnesses the most shocking thing he has ever seen: soldiers, their natural abilities bolstered by a drug called Berserker, attacking the enemy with a level of violence no one has ever seen before. That no one had ever imagined. Until now.
The drug is a powerful weapon of war, but it comes with a terrible side effect. It turns some people who use it into “sleepwalkers,” single-minded killers, and – even worse – they pass this genetic alteration on to their descendants.
Teaming up with a wealthy businessman, Napier founded a drug company with but one purpose: to find a cure for Berserker’s terrible side effect – the sleepwalker legacy.
In the present day, when the novel opens, the search for the antidote continues. Sam Jardine, a descendent of George Napier, works for the drug company. He discovers there are serious problems with the company’s latest Berserker antidote, and he suspects that a series of inexplicable suicides are connected with the company. Is someone committing murder to keep the terrible truth about the drug from getting out?
The author could have played this as a straight actioner, a thriller with a lot of running-about and last-minute escapes. Instead, and rather cleverly, he plays it as a financial thriller, with Sam using the tricks of his trade (corporate espionage, for example) to break open a massive conspiracy. The pace is slower than your typical actioner, giving us more opportunity to get to know the characters and the modern-day story’s historical roots.
The writing is quite good; and even though the premise straddles the line between plausible and implausible, Hepworth prevents us from spending too much time thinking about the implausible elements (a drug that turns people into super-soldiers?) by keeping us focused on his well constructed characters and the business-thriller elements of the story. Nicely done.