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When Dr. George Q. Ferguson, the brilliant scientist founder of a prestigious New York City academy, dies in a chemical explosion, several of his former students don’t believe that it was an accident (“Dr. Ferguson did not make mistakes….Accidental death wasn’t in the cards for this guy,” one asserts), and they assemble to look into it as a potential homicide. The group includes sex worker and empath Rosa Lejeune, who prefers interacting in a virtual world rather than in the flesh, and Torian “Tory” Ross, the chief crisis officer at the world’s largest conglomerate, who also happens to be transhuman (outfitted with technological implants and grafts). They team up with the same company’s CEO and founder, Paul Oscar Ryland Perry, and skilled biohacker Kris Johnson to investigate and question a host of murder suspects. Things take an unexpected turn when a flu outbreak hits the city that has a link to a brand-new element that the professor discovered. Now they’re determined to do something about the infected people, whose groans and surging numbers make them akin to zombies. Lachi loads the narrative with multidimensional characters and subplots. Rosa, for example, endures a disturbed ex’s relentless harassment and enters into a complicated relationship with the magnetic but entitled CEO. Such characterization makes for a sharp thriller, and it’s one that boasts chic tech—most notably the complicated Ncluded wristbands that keep everyone connected. There’s welcome humor, too; Kris’ blasé attitude is quite charming, as is the talking, sable-spotted Jack Russell robot at his side. The tale veers into a surprising direction in the latter half, as Rosa learns that she has a powerful ability. This, coupled with the intensifying plague, sidelines the entertaining murder mystery, but Lachi’s swift pacing propels a story that manages to wrap up nearly everything while leaving a few juicy items for a possible sequel.

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