Title: Curse the Day
Series: A Michael North Thriller, #2
Author: Judith O'Reilly
Genre: The Conspiracy Thriller
Pub. Date: April 2, 2020
Publisher & Hosted: Head of Zeus
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At a global tech gala hosted at the British Museum, scientist Tobias Hawke is due to unveil an astonishing breakthrough. His AI system appears to have reached consciousness, making Hawke the leading light in his field.
But when terrorists storm the building, they don't just leave chaos in their wake. They seize Hawke's masterwork, sparking a chain reaction of explosive events which could end the world as we know it.
Michael North, ex-assassin and spy-for-hire, must find the killers and recover the AI. But he can't do it alone. Hawke's wife, Esme, and teenage hacker, Fangfang, have their own reasons to help complete North's mission – and together they unravel a dark and deadly conspiracy which stretches right to the top of the British elite.
Can North survive long enough to uncover the whole truth? Or is it already too late for humanity?
It was dark and smoky in the American bar in a forgotten part of Berlin as Michael North counted up the red, white and blue chips on the green baize. There were a lot less than when he started. And he had a dim memory that some of the best ones used to be black.
He couldn’t recall how much cash he’d come out with. Maybe 1,500 euros? Not to mention the five grand of credit and the Rolex GMT-Master II watch he’d lost. His head was wrecked. That last whisky was a mistake, he’d known it even as he tipped the shot glass and it poured like lava down his parched throat. He narrowed his eyes to peek at his two hole cards laid face down against the table – two eights, all blurred hearts and diamonds. A pair – that was good, he reminded himself. With some effort, he refocused his gaze to fix it on the face-up community cards in the centre of the table – the seven of clubs, two of spades, queen of hearts and eight of spades. He did the sums – he had three eights, which meant he had three of a kind, with one card still to come.
There was a rapping. He felt it rising through the baize, rather than hearing it.
‘The action’s on you, Ënglander,’ Erich said. When he had a good hand, Pockmarked Erich grew impatient to play and twisted the end of his blond moustache so hard it had to hurt. He was twisting now, spiralling the coarse blond hairs round the tip of his finger at the corner of the fleshy wet mouth.
The bullet North took to the brain on active service in Afghanistan nearly six years ago was still in there, lodged close by the posterior parietal artery in the right temporo-parietal junction. The injury should have killed him, instead the bullet had rewired his neural pathways and heightened his intuition. Since he lost the woman he’d loved though, nothing felt the same and the intuition which had once been so powerful was silent. Had the bullet moved? Had his rage and then his desperate grief tipped the balance is his fragile brain all over again? He didn’t know and he didn’t care. She was gone and he was less than he was – it seemed only fitting.
But not even he could ignore the greedy expectation in Erich’s tone of voice. And there had to be a reason for it.
The adrenaline spike hit hard. One second he was drunk. The next, sober. The sound of a slot machine paying out coin by coin, the chink of glass against the tap of a beer pump, laughter and snatches of booze-oiled conversation. The complex geometric pattern on the back of the cards, the open pores and wrinkles of his fellow players, and the green hair of the girl at the bar all ratchetting into pin-sharp focus.
North sat up straighter, his chair scraping against the wooden boards, and that’s when he saw it. The sideways glance between Erich and the tattooed dealer next to him who had folded on the flop.
The body of the German eagle covered the dealer’s bulbous nose, its head and sharp beak centred over his sloping forehead, while feathered wings stretched out over each pustulant cheek. The eagle was bad enough. Worse yet were the grinning skulls sporting military helmets that decorated the back of the dealer’s bald head, the words Auslander Raus and the zombified Nazi goose-stepping up his arm. North had called him Birdie from the off and the guy hadn’t complained. Doubtless he’d been called worse.
There it was again.
Author Bio ↓
Judith O'Reilly is the author of Wife in the North, a top-three Sunday Times bestseller and BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week, and The Year of Doing Good. Judith is a former senior journalist with The Sunday Times and a former political producer with BBC 2's Newsnight and ITN's Channel 4 News. Her first Michael North thriller, Killing State was set in Westminster and was praised by thriller writers around the globe.
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