Twenty-four Days is the second thriller in J. Murray’s Rowe-Delamagente series about forces combating a terrorist nuclear attack. And lest you think the potential threat of a nuclear attack could never happen, as in what fool would provoke such world-wide disaster, just remember Kim Jung-un still sits on his North Korean dictator’s throne, threatening the world with his paranoid delusions – and his nation’s nuclear weapons program.
Murray gathers a talented and sometimes unlikely crew of heroes, including a brilliant American scientist, the quirky AI (artificial intelligence robot) she built, a former Navy SEAL, and an MI 6 (British Secret Intelligence Service) special agent, each of whom contributes a unique expertise toward locating and obliterating the peril. Then there are the antagonists, beginning with terrorist Salah Al-Zahrawi. And someone has attacked American submarines with a cyber virus, making them disappear.
One of my favorite aspects of the book is how Murray includes an early hominid named Lucy to help resolve the crisis facing the team hunting the lost submarine as they attempt to defuse the nuclear threat. The author reaches back into the anthropological evolution of human beings to take us into the future. I enjoyed how this reminded me that all accomplishments stand on the shoulders of those who came before. Way before, in this case.
In Murray’s own words, here is a summary of her book:
World-renowned paleoanthropologist, Dr. Zeke Rowe is surprised when a friend from his SEAL past shows up in his Columbia lab and asks for help: Two submarines have been hijacked and Rowe might be the only man who can find them.
At first he refuses, fearing a return to his former life will end a sputtering romance with fellow scientist and love of his life, Kali Delamagente, but when one of his closest friends is killed by the hijackers, he changes his mind. He asks Delamagente for the use of her one-of-a-kind AI, Otto, who possesses the unique skill of being able to follow anything with a digital trail.
In a matter of hours, Otto finds one of the subs and it is neutralized.
But the second, Otto can’t locate.
Piece by piece, Rowe uncovers a bizarre nexus between Salah Al-Zahrawi, the world’s most dangerous terrorist and a man Rowe thought he had killed a year ago, a North Korean communications satellite America believes is a nuclear-tipped weapon, an ideologue that cares only about revenge, and the USS Bunker Hill (a Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser) tasked with supervising the satellite launch.
And a deadline that expires in twenty-four days.
As America teeters on the brink of destruction, Rowe finally realizes that Al-Zahrawi’s goal isn’t nuclear war but payback against the country that cost him so much.
It’s no surprise how pleased I was that J. Murray graciously agreed to an interview about her new book.
S: Can today’s science make a warship invisible?
J: If not today, in the very near future. DARPA and other scientific arms of the US Military are experimenting with approaches such as the use of metamaterials (the device used in Twenty-four Days) To hide military equipment from all sorts of waves—like sound waves and light waves. In a nutshell, here’s how they work: Rather than the sound or light waves hitting the object, they are deflected around the object and they land on what’s behind it. That means, the viewer (or in the book’s case, sonar) see what’s behind the object rather than the object. This is already effective for small objects, but is experimental for large ones like tanks and subs, and planning stages for sonar.
S: I’d day that’s way more than cool – it’s astonishing to think we are on the brink of such a scientific breakthrough.
Is the technology described in the book really possible?
J: Absolutely. It takes real laws of physics—science in general—and extrapolates intelligently on those to what could be if there was time and money. It follows the model of what is commonly referred to as Star Trek Science. But in the case of Twenty-four Days science, you don’t have to wait centuries. It’ll probably be around in a matter of decades. You can say you read about it first in Twenty-four Days.
S: I’m going to remember that. Is this a romantic thriller?
J: Maybe. There is a budding romance in it.
S: That sounds compelling. How did you choose this topic?
J: I actually didn’t choose it—it chose me. My daughter worked as an officer on the Bunker Hill, but it didn’t start there. That just gave me the nautical tie-in. I really can’t say how the rest of it developed. It just did, over time. Sigh.
S: Did you encounter anything unexpected either when doing research or writing this book?
J: I did. I was surprised how often if I dug deep enough, I found synergies between the plot and reality. For example, I needed a way to for a third-world nation like North Korea to defeat one of America’s premier warships. By digging, I came up with one. Pretty cool.
S: Can we look forward to another book in this vein, with these characters?
J: Yes! I’m working on book three. I’ll probably move from the Fleet to the backwoods and feature more of Otto, but that could completely change when I start doing more research. Plots have a way of unveiling themselves despite my best of plans.
S: I know what they say about plans. What’s on the horizon for the rest of your writing career?
J: I hope to publish a book a year, to build my portfolio. Right now, I’m working on a spin-off of To Hunt a Sub featuring Lucy, the ancient human. The working title is Born in a Treacherous Time. I hope to publish that next summer which will give me two years to prepare book three of the Rowe-Delamagente series.
S: I’m very pleased to hear this, as you know how fond I am of the character, Lucy. Anything else we should know about?
J: Besides fiction, I continue to work on my non-fiction books*. I have over a hundred out, but they do require constant attention to be sure they remain current.
S: Thank you for this interview, Jacqui. It was so interesting to discover what inspires your writing and to pick your brain about the advances in science and technology. What sounds like science fiction is coming true, and that’s just incredible.
J: You’re welcome, Shari.
Twenty-four Days by J. Murray is a terrific book, that I can promise you. Fast paced, exhilarating, and engaging, this is a book to keep you turning pages and make you proud of what’s right and good in the world.
*J. Murray is the brain and brawn behind Structured Learning which is the premier provider of technology books and eBooks to the education community.
Title and author: Twenty-four Days by J. Murray
Genre: Thriller, military thriller
Cover by: Paper and Sage Design
Cover image courtesy: Paper and Sage Design