“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.”
My Thoughts: If someone ever asks you what superhero power you most want, just think of John Smith before you answer. Christopher Farnsworth does an excellent job showing the (imagined) repercussions of having the ability to read minds and project mental images onto someone else’s brain. In fact, given the debilitating effects of such powers, you end up wondering if the right answer to the super power question is none at all.
In spite of those effects, or maybe even because of them, John Smith kicks ass. He proves time and again that he is more than just a gun for hire or a cleaner, and yet that is exactly what he is. In Flashmob, he shows that he has few limits as to what he is willing to do to others but also that he does have a softer side. He is a mercenary, but he is also vulnerable in ways he does not show others. He is a superpowered James Bond but haunted by his past.
The novel itself is the quintessential action adventure. As in the previous novel, John’s foe is nebulous, hiding behind computers and social media, but no less dangerous. Anyone on social media has noticed a growing propensity for negativity and online cyberbullying among followers or within comment sections, so the idea that someone could use that negativity to sway others to perform crimes is plausible, making Downvote’s use of social media to promote psychological warfare is downright frightening.
Given Smith’s penchant for the ladies, his comfort level with obscene wealth, and his connections to shady government personnel, the comparison to James Bond is not only expected but appropriate. There are more than a few scenes that evoke the same adrenaline rush as one of Bond’s chase scenes. This is not a bad thing. James Bond is so popular after all of these years because his adventures are exciting. John Smith’s adventures are equally so, but there is a gravitas to them that humanizes John in ways that Bond will never be.
Flashmob is exactly what you hope an action story will be. Fast-paced, exciting, just realistic enough to be believable, it pushes all the right buttons. That John comes with heavy baggage he is willing to share with readers makes him more likable a character, and the aftereffects of his power usages makes him a sympathetic one. While not a story that will change the world, Flashmob is a story to help you escape from our current one and maybe give you the boost you need to continue to fight the good fight.