Illuminati Cycle: The Illuminati Circle by Robert J. Ristino
Two sicarii, the Illuminati’s deadly assassins, make their way from the Arab Emirates to the French Alps leaving a trail of bodies as they search for one of their own. They are cleaning up loose ends caused by the FBI’s disruption of the Illuminati’s child sex trafficking network. On their trail are SSA Bing Ingram and his FBI CARD team assigned to an Interpol task force charged with destroying the network uncovered in the United States. The sicarii and the task force find themselves in a cross-continental race to locate the one man who could cause the ultimate destruction of the network – a high-ranking member of the Illuminati Circle. With the lives of countless children hanging in the balance, the task force must find the cunning Circle member before the sicarii do. The race from Abu Dhabi to Torun is as thrilling as the Grand Prix … but far more deadly.
The Illuminati Circle has a Hollywood feel to it, like something directed by Ron Howard. We get fast-paced action, gorgeous French scenery, beautiful women and gun-fights. We can cast Clive Owen as SSA Bing Ingram, Brie Larson as Trish and Amber Heard as Haseena.
The Illuminati, unlike the occult Illuminati we typically know of, are a group of criminals with an MBA-like criminal network specializing in child trafficking. What I know of child trafficking is that they usually get their victims from poorer countries like Cambodia or the Philippines. It’s an eye-opener that they also abduct children from developed countries. The Illuminati caters to extremely rich clients by providing them what they specifically requested via the dark web. This is a very sickening crime and the book did a good job showing the extent of these criminal activities and the experiences of the children without getting too explicit or too graphic.
Plot-wise, you can’t go wrong with a really interesting one like this and it was a breeze to read as well. However, I wasn’t feeling the characters. There is a good attempt to give them their quirks, personalities and sexual tension but they still come across as flat. LeFrenniere, who was an amoral, professional criminal (and played by Vincent Cassel), came the closest to being the most interesting but he didn’t quite get there. I would have wanted him to be more nuanced or at least be intimidating. Meh, he caved in too easily to Bing’s bluff. The female characters were the type you would call ‘strong’. They know how to fight and take charge but again, I wish there were some backstories. It would also give the book an extra layer and make the most of the omniscient POV if the relationship between Haseena and Enrika Venclava (played by Eva Green) was fully fleshed out. It would make Enrika’s motives in the next book much more convincing.
All in all, I want to witness CARD destroy the Illuminati and rescue the children but hopefully we get that much needed depth to the characters.
Thank you to the author, Robert J. Ristino for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.
3 Stars – not exactly setting my world on fire but I liked it