The favorite subject of political thriller authors nowadays is high-level global conspirators buried within the US government, and The Dark Hour is unfortunately a rather cliche example. This time the conspirators, who all seem to share a disdain for the common man and an ability to use murder with impunity on behalf of their ill-defined cause, call themselves “The Network,” and they go back generations, are all wealthy, powerful, and nefarious, and guaranteed to get caught in the end.
In The Dark Hour, they are planning to deploy a killer virus and knock out a bunch of political enemies at the same time, and heroine Sidney Fitzpatrick, an FBI-trained forensic artist like author Burcell herself, finds herself in the thick of things hunting down the virus with a potential love interest from a super-secret government black-ops organization called Atlas. Only the love interest, Zachary Griffin, is forced to go rogue when he learns that his CIA agent wife, long-believed dead, was outed as alive and on the wrong side when Fitzpatrick unwittingly sketches her likeness from a murder witness’ testimony, setting off a violent and escalating chain of events.
The story is complicated, and Burcell wields her familiarity with the law enforcement world by cooking up a veritable alphabet soup of government agencies with which to impress us, but I found it annoyingly trite and overly familiar. Burcell has a half-dozen side plots going on at the same time, which take us from Washington DC to the Caribbean to the Brazilian Amazon to Europe and back again. Can love blossom among agents who risk their lives every day in ungodly places? And should it? And do we really care? I do give Burcell points for creating a strong female protagonist, but the best thing that can be said for this action-packed story is that it is very fast-paced, and thus a fast read. A win-win.