Flashbyte by Cat Conner illustrated once again that I must click slower as I select novels to read. This was in a selection of titles that I purchased which were short stories and flash fiction. Flashbyte has nothing to do with short writing pieces. It is a 425-page read that I completed with a growing sense of disbelief that I kept reading to the end. Just as I thought a segment couldn’t be more unrealistic than the previous one, I was proven wrong. I went back to my Amazon purchase history in disbelief that I would pay such a price (USD 2.99) for such a disappointing novel. If I didn’t like a purchase so much, I would usually return it to Amazon for a refund but then it would not show up as a verified purchase. If I wasted so much time trudging through this, I want to be able to post my comments without them being removed for not pertaining to a purchase.
Gabrielle (or Ellie) Conway is some sort of super cop or perhaps a mixture of a cop and not-quite-CIA type. She is part of Delta A; there are other Delta elements similarly designated. She is special. Her teammates know this, they are also special in their own ways but Ellie is so special that she is in charge. She makes decisions, she directs investigations. When she is solving puzzles, she does it with the aid of popular music. The music gets louder and louder in her head until she finds clues the music is trying to suggest. She also frequently talks to her dead husband, Mac. When paying attention to the music, talking to her dead husband, or seeing things that no one else can, her eyes do not focus; she temporarily “leaves” the room. While disconcerting to her colleagues, they all respect her near paranormal skills so much they continue to trust her with weapons in firefights and continue to respect her seemingly superior rank. The unreality of all this was exhausting for me, a mere mortal reader.
Ellie has secrets from her friends. She was undercover in the CIA several years prior to the current employment she holds in this novel. Her teammates don’t know this and she sees little reason to tell them. When female victims start showing up dead with the name Ellie Conway it occurs to the real Ellie that this might be a revenge campaign against her for undercover work in the CIA years before. Of course, she can’t tell her colleagues. This slows the investigation. Then there are the boxes of body parts that show up at Ellie’s house, her office, and even the houses of people Ellie knows. Even Ellie doesn’t connect this to her past; she seems to be as confused as every other character in this novel. So far, we are at possibly two separate investigations.
This is not enough. Next, we have mysterious deaths in a hospital. Since the increasing number of bodies named Ellie (or variant) Conway continues to be a frustration, since there are is an increasing number of boxes of body parts, Ellie takes a break to help a doctor friend of one of her colleagues investigate mysterious medical deaths in a hospital. Fortuitously while Ellie is involved in the hospital mystery, an evildoer from her CIA background, the one killing “Ellies,” shows up near the hospital. Ellie sees an opportunity to solve this mystery and eliminate a threat. She just calls a friend from another agency and requests an “extraordinary rendition.” No bureaucratic coordination. Just a phone call between friends. I would be very scared to have friends with such power. I never have to worry about having such friends because this novel has crossed all kinds of fantasy lines.
And then Ellie crashes. All her alternate identities come home to roost. She is truly alone. She can’t remember her daughter, father, previous identities, or her rockstar boyfriend. This does not stop her from continuing with investigations or supporting her team. It just slows everyone down a bit.
Throughout all these events and investigations, she is pursued by somewhat incompetent snipers who manage to shoot and kill or wound many around her. She can walk away from every encounter. In one twenty-four-hour period, she survives three or four targeted assassination attempts. The target was Ellie.
The development of characters and storyline is terrible throughout the novel. Because she has so many mysterious and classified contacts, she is able to call on sources everywhere to get help and information. No coordination necessary. No research necessary for an author to realize how impossible this is. Because she is constantly hearing music to give her clues, there is no reason to consider logic as far as drawing conclusions. And there is omniscient ghost Mac who will always be there to inject improbable story elements that further any direction the author chooses.
This novel is exhausting. I gave it two Amazon stars and will take it as a literal illustration of “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”