The Bottom Line: Hazen cooks up one of his most compelling conspiracies yet in this fast-paced series entry.
The third book in John Hazen’s Vega Series finds the intrepid TV news anchor Francine Vega in a new role. She’s now CEO of Westbrook Broadcasting Corporation, which is just three months old. As the novel opens, her family is away at Disney World as Francine is in New York working hard to create content for the network.
Still an investigative journalist at heart, Francine springs into action when she learns that her friend Eunice has gone missing. Her first stop is Fairbrook, Massachusetts, where Eunice was scheduled to help some family members move into their new house. Shortly after arriving, a dead body is discovered in a nearby forest, and a local woman reports having seen Eunice and her relations being abducted from their new home.
Francine’s investigation leads her to a religious compound protected by a barbed wire fence called Beyond Revelation. The religious order began in Montana some years earlier before springing up in new locations across the country. Soon, Francine finds herself immersed in a high-stakes case conspiracy with security implications for the entire country.
Prior series books Fava and Zyklon successfully developed Francine’s character arc while tackling thorny political and social issues such as nationalism and Nazism. Beyond Revelation adds race relations to the mix, as well as Russian influence, religious zealotry and political bullying. Trending social topics like white privilege, systemic racism within police departments and too-close-to-call elections are also prevalent throughout. There’s even a woman named “Crazy Karen” who doesn’t report a crime because she’s convinced that no one will take her seriously.
In less capable hands, juggling so many contemporary societal ills within a fictional narrative could have come off as bleak, predictable and uninspired. While there is a lot going on within just 246 pages, Hazen somehow pulls off a story that is both cautionary and hopeful, while still creating just enough suspense to keep readers engaged.
Readers are urged to read Fava and Zyklon before tackling Beyond Revelation to get the most out of the backstory and fully understand Francine’s world, recognizable as it may be.