Rating:

Reviewed by Shannon Hopkins

Dr. Alexander Hoffman is a pioneer in the realm of artificial intelligence. After years of work he has created VIXAL-4, an algorithm that trades in the global markets by capitalizing on the Fear Index – financial movements based on the current level of risk. The success of the algorithm has made billions for Hoffman and his clients even in a falling market, and they are preparing to solicit even greater investments to move forward.

On May 6, everything turns upside down.

A mysterious book, a late-night intruder, and a series of communications Hoffman doesn’t remember having…all these things and more are somehow connected, and Hoffman is convinced that someone is out to ruin him. But who could it be – a disgruntled employee, a client, or a competitor looking to drive him out? As coincidences pile up and his life is torn to shreds, Hoffman must discover a truth more frightening than his worst assumptions.

Robert Harris’ The Fear Index begins slowly but draws the reader in with a gripping sequence of events taking place in the first few pages and setting the tone for the rest of the novel. The exposition is somewhat slow, focusing on the technical aspects of VIXAL-4 and the politics of dealing with investors, until a sudden frenzy of plot movement propels both protagonist and reader to a dramatic conclusion both wholly predictable and utterly shocking.

Not every part of the story fits together seamlessly, however. There are vague references to a potential subplot that, if further developed, had the potential to add greater depth to Hoffman’s journey; instead, the subject is tersely addressed in a few short asides and forgotten. In addition, the web woven around Hoffman is so intricate that a few rereads of different sections were necessary to establish how each element of the mystery fit into the larger whole.

Perhaps, though, that was Harris’ goal. The twists and turns that Hoffman faces are sure to keep the reader guessing, and there are quite a few surprises along the way. Ultimately, the effort to keep the facts straight was well worth it.

The Fear Index is an excellent psychological thriller, with dashes of crime drama and technology thrown in. Don’t be afraid to give it a read.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Shannon lives in Cleveland, Ohio with her fiancé and a room full of books that she peruses when she isn’t trolling Apartment Therapy for new decorating ideas. In her free time she enjoys maintaining her blog, The Writer’s Closet, planning her wedding, and baking tasty gluten-free treats.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Knopf. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.