A small town is rocked by political scandal, economic conspiracy and environmental manipulation by a shadowy organization in this second thriller from novelist Gunther Boccius.
The Fifth Device homes in on the ethics of corporate economics, specifically on the Limited Liability Company (LLC), a business structure the author strangely deems toxic to American capitalism. “Since its inception, the device has been the crucible for creating the corruption driving its managers to rip off every man, woman and child out of their own net worth,” explains a character at one point in the book.
In the pastoral village of Clarity, Mayor Roger Trent is coping badly with his town’s deepening budget crisis. When Susan Lanier arrives with a proposal to bottle water in Clarity, it seems those problems are solved.
Susan, however, turns out to be one cog in a huge, destructive wheel. Further up the chain of command, we meet Dirk, an Armani-clad executive who has just been appointed by terrorist Igor Burganich as CEO of EEL, a multinational corporation with interests in drugs, weapons, oil, real estate and now, bottled water. EEL is a front for a fascist conspiracy to systematically control, enslave and finally reduce the U.S. population by two-thirds. “Patience and obfuscation,” Igor advises Dirk. “Mussolini and Hitler were just too bombastic.”
Back in Clarity, Trent loses his office after succumbing to his affection for town manager Samantha Harden. Eventually, the few clues they’ve uncovered about the bottled water company start to unravel when the town engineer hacks into Dirk’s computer and downloads an explosive recording of his interview with Igor. Meanwhile, a mercenary hunts the evidence, not to mention any townsfolk of Clarity that get in his way.
Boccius’ book is richly characterized and well researched, but the Byzantine story falls short by leapfrogging between small-town soap opera and James Bond-style schemes. Although his passionately written but overlong expository sequences grow tiresome, Boccius exhibits a nicely low-key, Grisham-like style when he abandons his business polemic and gets back on the ground in Clarity.
Also available as an ebook.