What would you do if you learned your corporation had killed to cover up a secret?
Reid Frank was head of human development at the giant energy company, Xcelsion, until his Internet gambling addiction pulled him into an embezzlement scheme that cost him his career, his marriage, and his name. An ex-felon, abandoned and broke, Frank Reade is now answering phones at a call center, when a call from an old friend at Xcelsion pulls him back into the game.
Xcelsion is under siege. Merger rumors and an environmental scandal are crippling the company, but an affair between the CEO and an executive at a rival firm might destroy it. Reade is told to make the affair disappear. He needs the money. He loves the game. Then he makes the mistake of his life and falls for the woman himself.
On the run, Reade becomes lost in a double world ruled by shadow deals and murder until he discovers a pulp science fiction novel, Attack of the Sea Monkeys, about an oil company in the 1970s, that leads him to a shocking truth about Xcelsion.
In 1973, Mideast strife and the oil crisis have knocked the global economy to its knees. With every company and country locked in a search for new sources of energy, the reclusive industrialist, Dr. Petr Chopek, calls the world’s greatest scientists, engineers, and business leaders to his remote South Pacific island to show them what he has discovered.
Pulp fiction writer, Gadsen Wells, is not a scientist but when his new companion, renowned paleo-botanist, Dr. Harold Braunhut, dies mysteriously, Wells takes his place on the decrepit prop plane flying to Chopek’s island. Accompanied by Braunhut’s beautiful nurse, Amber, Wells finds a paradise where scientists are engaged in experiments to learn how to exploit a new energy source linked to a species of giant salamander, long thought to be extinct.
Then Wells learns Chopek’s true plans. The ancient salamanders are being genetically altered, designed not to save the world but to control it. Wells and Amber escape Chopek’s spies and sneak into the labyrinth beneath the island to try to stop him.
As though Jules Verne had written a James Bond novel. . . .
Praise for The Four Stages of Cruelty
“. . . a stunning, unforgettable story.”
—Kate Christensen, The Great Man
“This is one intense book, brutally sad and heartbreakingly brutal. . . . I found it impossible to put down. . .”
—Dan Chaon, Await Your Reply
“Hollihan’s astonishing debut . . . As thoughtful as it is violent. . .”
—Kirkus (starred review)
“Hollihan’s impressive first novel, a complex and atmospheric thriller. . .”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Best Books of 2010”