Stockton Clay gets the break of his young career, covering the exclusive unveiling of Japanese carmaker Kamita Motors’ new FGT-1 supercar – an event that ends in tragedy and sends the auto journalist on an unlikely intercontinental quest.
On his way to the offices of Automobile Digest, Clay escapes a dangerous case of road rage on the U.S. 101 freeway. His suspicion that people are trying to kill him increases when the prototype supercar he was supposed to test drive, on a raceway in the South of France, crashes mysteriously, killing a rival journalist. Most unnerving is the personal invitation and attention given Clay by race car mogul Tetsuro Kanda, President and CEO of Kamita Motors. Following the accident, Clay is seen off by Kamita’s attractive publicist, Maki Takano. But before he makes it to the airport, Clay is driven to a clandestine CIA outpost, where he learns that the Japanese car company is under investigation for illegal activities that might have something to do with a biotech subsidiary, Pax-Gen, Inc. Now drafted by American intelligence as an undercover agent, Clay flies to Japan to scoop up more dirt on Kanda. Meanwhile, Clay’s nagging headaches and nosebleeds point to a fatal genetic condition that can only be cured by top-secret research carried out by Pax-Gen.
Sam Mitani draws on 20 years of experience in auto trade reporting to effectively position his tale of international intrigue within the world of glitzy press events and three-ring exhibitions. While his car descriptions ooze with authority, he also dresses up his world with authentic designer fashion, five-star hotels, private jets, and top-shelf booze. In vivid chase sequences, readers can hear the tires screech and rubberneck at the blurring scenery. When the plot opens up on mad scientists and Russian hoodlums, the action gets nasty and unbelievable, even for this Mission: Impossible-style genre. Where dialogue could add a comic or humane counterpoint to whirring bullets and bone-crunching kicks, it instead falls on rote quips and redundant commentary. A tender subplot evolves to engage readers in the novel’s second half, through Stockton’s search for his biological parents, adding some volume to Mitani’s adopted lead character. Mitani also demonstrates command of his professional milieu, capturing the politics in the magazine’s newsroom between a bossy editor and competing cub reporters.
In THE PROTOTYPE, unbelievable conspiracies and stilted dialogue compromise some eye-catching scenery and moments of gripping pursuit.
~Chris Wood for IndieReader