3 out of 4 stars
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The Expansion is a standalone thriller filled with espionage, revenge, betrayal and family feuds.
All his life Max has lived with the betrayal of his parents. Faced with arrest after conning people into a scheme, Edward and Helen Burns end their lives when they intentionally crash their getaway helicopter, leaving Max to be brought up by his uncle on a housing estate; a far cry from his expensive boarding school in Zuoz. Fast forward and Max has been invited by Godfredo, a childhood friend, to work with his father on a massive bid for a project on the expansion of the Panama Canal. Little does Max know that the countries and people bidding behind the scenes for the project have hidden agendas and that he is soon going to be caught up in a web of lies that might be more than he can handle. After all, if a government wants you gone, what chance do you really have?
A number of relationships are concentrated on in the book. The bond between Max and Godfredo is threatened when Godfredo’s father Paco is found to be making deals behind deals. Godfredo and Paco’s relationship is extremely dysfunctional and I began to understand a little of why Godfredo behaved like he did. A bit more of a back story, however, would have been helpful as there is a scene where Godfredo wants to resort to violence to express his anger and I really wondered what pushed him to get there. Max meets Karis who works for the Smithsonian Institute and their relationship is renewed a few years later when Max learns that Karis is hiding quite a secret. Other peripheral characters don’t play huge parts but add to the dimensions of the story.
I was very ambivalent about the book as I didn’t hate it but it didn’t really make an impact on me. In fact I read it twice as I was wondering why I couldn’t remember anything outstanding and I actually picked up quite a bit the second time round which made me question as to why it didn’t stand out in the first read. The book hops between corporate corruption and spy thriller and I felt this detracted somewhat from what I expected to read. The story starts with a bang and I thought I was in for a wild ride but then it plods along at a slow pace until just before the end then jumps into warp speed again. This races to the finish and then the book is over. Just like that. I was left wanting more. I found Max’s character very gullible and the “secret” that Karis holds of a “world changing balance of power” which is promised in the blurb is hardly of epic proportions. The scene that starts the book is alluded to later but I thought for such a revelation it could have been woven into the narrative a bit more.
What I did appreciate about the book was the good editing; only a few mistakes popped out which made the flow of reading very comfortable. The idea for the story was a good one, but too many tangents or even character stories felt unfulfilled.
The Expansion is a good afternoon read but not the high octane one I expected so I rate it 3 out of 4 stars and recommend it for mature YA and up, especially those who enjoy a quick thriller.
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