Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2017
Gifted troubleshooter John Smith, introduced in the acclaimed thriller Killfile, must take down a shadowy figure who has weaponized the internet, using social media to put a price on the heads of his targets in this intense, unstoppable thriller from the author reviewers have compared to Michael Crichton, Brad Thor, and James Rollins.
As a fixer for America’s one percent, John Smith cleans up the messes of those rich enough to afford him. But he’s no ordinary gun for hire. Smith is a man of rare gifts, including the ability to read minds. Arriving at the wedding of Kira Sadeghi, a reality television celebrity he recently saved from kidnappers, Smith witnesses a group of gunmen open fire, hitting the bride and others. Though he’s unarmed, Smith cripples one of the killers and is able to pry one word from his mind: "Downvote."
Eager to learn more, Smith hacks into the brain of an FBI agent investigating the attack to discover the Bureau has been investigating a nefarious new threat called "Downvote," an encrypted site on the "dark net" that lists the names of celebrities and offers a hefty bounty for anyone who can kill them—unleashing an anonymous and deadly flashmob with a keystroke.
Finding a mastermind on the internet is like trying to catch air—unless you’re John Smith. Motivated by money and revenge, he traces a series of electronic signatures to a reclusive billionaire living at sea, accompanied by a scary-smart female bodyguard who becomes Smith’s partner in his quest. The hunt for their prey will lead from Hong Kong to Reykjavik to a luxury gambling resort deep in the Laotian jungle. Yet always this criminal mastermind remains one step ahead.
The only way Downvote’s creator can stop Smith is to kill him . . . because while this diabolical genius can run, there’s no hiding from a man who can read minds.
The main elements of Farnsworth's brilliant second thriller featuring the man known as John Smith (after 2016's Killfile) would individually be enough to sustain interest; the combination of a telepathic lead and a terrifyingly plausible effort to use the Internet for social manipulation produces intelligent and knuckle-biting suspense. After 9/11, Smith has served his country by reading the thoughts of terrorists and planting painful sensations in their minds. He's confronted with an even greater challenge when he becomes a private security consultant. After witnessing the attempted shooting of a reality TV personality in the middle of her wedding at a Santa Monica, Calif., hotel, Smith learns the disturbing truth behind the violence. The investigating FBI agent, Greg Vincent, shares his suspicions that the crime was caused by a website called Downvote. The site, which encourages the worst in humanity, features the "most hated people on the Internet at any given moment" and produces a de facto hit list that some of its visitors have already acted on. Farnsworth credibly ups the ante for his hero and makes accepting his paranormal abilities easy. Many will want to read this novel in one sitting.