<i>The Fornax Assassin</i>
  • © 2024 J.C. Gemmell 0

The Fornax Assassin

Reviewed by Olga Markova for Readers’ Favorite

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The Fornax Assassin by J.C. Gemmell is a captivating blend of dystopia, science fiction, crime fiction, and conspiracy thriller. For twenty years, the lethal Fornax virus has been raging in Britain. Desperate to contain the pandemic, the British Government isolates every person infected with the Fornax virus on Fornax Island. Hours after promising to close Fornax Island, the Prime Minister was assassinated. Solicitor Davy Malik travels to Fornax Island to defend Naval Nurse Sam Jueves, who was arrested for the murder of the Prime Minister. Meantime, Davy’s sister Rachael was diagnosed as a carrier and faces isolation on Fornax Island. Davy hopes to help Rachael using his military connections on Fornax Island. Before long, Davy and Rachael discover a mind-boggling political conspiracy.

The Fornax Assassin by J.C. Gemmell gripped me with the action-packed, suspenseful intrigue. J.C. Gemmell raises highly topical and relatable issues, such as the fusion of business and politics and the threats posed by pandemics, making this work of fiction a thought-provoking read. The prevailing dialogues make this story an easy and fast read. But most of all, I liked the character-driven intrigue full of duplicity and deceitful impersonations that created the story’s world full of surprising revelations and discoveries and the atmospheric portrayal of Fornax Island and the nearby forts interlaced with the thoughts and feelings of the characters. This intriguing page-turner caters to science fiction, dystopia, crime fiction, and political thriller fans who will surely enjoy its twists and turns.
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Reviewed by Anita Dow on Goodreads

Unsettling and plausible near future thriller.

This is top notch, quality writing and I knew, within the first four pages, that it would be a gripping, intelligent plot. Author J.C Gemmell suggests a scarily believable scenario, following on a few decades after a certain well documented global pandemic. There are little details smoothly and authentically inserted into the prose, harking back to a way of living recently experienced in our Covid era, which have now become the new ‘normal’. Gemmell introduces us to a cast of characters large enough to give plenty of ‘what if?’ moments, but not so many I lost track of them. The opening and early chapters quickly build a chilling and unsettling situation that highlights how individuals and organisations can manipulate governments, who in turn shape and control our lives. There’s a truly disturbing realism to this dystopian mystery thriller, especially as two siblings, each working for the UK government in some way, are deliberately used to trap the other.

Reading this book called to mind Patrick McGoohan’s 1960s TV series ‘The Prisoner’ as it has a similar feeling of suspicion, worrying conspiracy theories and controlled lives. The pace grew to an exciting and satisfying resolution, with an unexpected ending and all suspects accounted for. J.C Gemmell has managed to convey a near future so real it could have you bringing your face masks and hand sanitiser out of the cupboard as a precaution against the next big threat to our future global health. Superb writing and editing makes this novel a pleasure to read, and If you enjoy intelligent thrillers, I highly recommend The Fornax Assassin.
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Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers’ Favorite

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The Fornax Assassin by J.C. Gemmell is set in a futuristic society threatened by the Fornax variant and where the assassination of the Prime Minister has created chaos. Solicitor Davy Malik navigates this turbulent landscape with concern for his sister Rachael, who is set to be relocated to Fornax Island. Malik is handling the case of Sam Jueves, a Naval Nurse arrested in the aftermath of the assassination, fuelling his determination to uncover the secrets of Fornax Island and potentially infiltrate it legally to help the Contagious Untreatables (CUs) held there. Malik explores the island, encountering various individuals and uncovering suspicious activities, including a potential cure for the Fornax variant contradicting British policies. Meanwhile, Detective Inspector Rachael Medwin investigates the Prime Minister’s assassination and the deaths on Fornax Island, determined to uncover the truth and locate her brother. The paths of Malik and Medwin intersect as they strive to expose the government’s mistreatment and protect their loved ones, leading to dangerous confrontations and unexpected alliances.

I really, really enjoyed The Fornax Assassin by J.C. Gemmell. Malik is a character that is both complex and incredibly human. He has trouble tying his bow tie, especially when he suspects he’s in a net of deception, but let the guy make his own way out of an airborne plane and watch him descend into glory. His sister Rachael is equally commanding and her ability to keep on the trail in investigating the PM’s assassination and what she pieces together adds a well-layered subplot. She is used as a pawn but is smart enough to know it, and holds her cards tight as a de facto hostage, which makes us wonder who ultimately has the upper hand. The best of the best in Gemmell’s writing is the descriptive imagery and Fornax Island itself. The dichotomy between the island’s vibrant community and the dark reality of the island’s CUs, the reasons for which Gemmell reveals at a measured pace, are exceptional. Political and ethical questions are raised, and there is a total disparity between classes. This is never more apparent than when we are shown a luxurious executive fort with five-star luxury and a three-star worthy restaurant after having toured prefabricated houses and Aaron Buchan’s wooden shack. Gemmell has written a book with plenty of directions it can explore, and I look forward to seeing what comes from their pen next.
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Reviewed by Nuris Brand

I was excited to read a novel that mixed a little bit of science fiction with crime. This novel is set in the year 2058. A deadly virus has swept across the globe. Our main character David Malik lives in Britain where the fornax variant is still active. David Malik is a lawyer and is called to represent a junior officer that is accused of assassinating the British prime minister.

David Malik decides to take the job in hopes of keeping his sister from being confined to Fornax Island. Although, things get interesting when he arrives at the quarantined island. David Malik realizes he is being framed for the prime minister's assassination. To make matters more interesting someone close to David is spearheading the investigation against him.

David Malik finds himself questioning everyone he meets on the island. He must work fast to determine who is behind the assassination. This story is written from a dual point of view, David and the investigator.

I found the plot twists interesting and unexpected. It kept me questioning the connection between the Fornax variant, the assassination, and David’s role as a lawyer. Gemmell manages to intertwine conspiracies regarding government, military personnel, scientists, and American Businessmen. It definitely brought my mind back to our own pandemic with COVID.

There were times when I was a bit confused and things became a bit tricky to follow but the end did clear all of this up, leaving any conflict resolved.
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Reviewed by Stephanie Chapman for Readers’ Favorite

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J.C. Gemmell’s The Fornax Assassin focuses on the response to a pandemic caused by a variant of the deadly Fornax virus. Great Britain’s answer was to exile all people who were carriers of the disease to Fornax Island. Davy Malik was a solicitor whose sister had been diagnosed as an asymptomatic carrier. Davy worked for the military exclusively and didn’t know how to save Rachael. He was given a case relating to Chief Petty Officer Naval Nurse Sam Jueves who was confined to Fornax Island. The Navy blamed Jueves for the assassination of the prime minister. Davy accepted the assignment, hoping to help Rachael, and flew to the island by helicopter. When he found that Jueves has no charges to answer, Captain Gresik offered him what appeared to be an undercover job as a Lieutenant Commander. Meanwhile, Rachael’s job as a detective was taking her to Fornax Island to investigate a murder.

J.C. Gemmell built suspense and intrigue throughout the story. Fornax Island sounded good at face value, but there was a catch, as neither Davy nor Rachael knew what they were getting themselves into. Jueves was a perplexing character because there was never a solid answer as to why the Navy hired Davy. Nobody offered a straightforward explanation, and the mystery had me reading every word to find out who the killer was. Rachael’s investigation resulted in revelations that made the story unpredictable. The end of the story floored me. The amount of detail given to each character’s personality showed how complex each person was. The buildings on the island were described vividly, as well as the terrain features. It allowed me to envision every scene. If you like mysteries that are difficult to solve, The Fornax Assassin is the perfect book.
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Reviewed by Vanessa Edwards

There was duplicity everywhere… not only deceitfulness but also the dual nature of everyone involved.’

The above quote from The Fornax Assassin neatly sums up this clever, compelling and complex book set in the late 2050s. Corporate greed and political skulduggery abound in a dystopian vision of a post-Brexit, post-Covid rump of a Britain shorn of Scotland, Cornwall, NI and the monarchy. A ferociously contagious and deadly variant of a Covid-like virus swept the world twenty years earlier. A Britain which has become isolated and inconsequential on the international stage struggles to manage the Fornax Variant. Some of those infected are identified as ‘contagious-and-untreatable’ carriers and transported to join other CUs for indefinite exile on Fornax Island.

In parallel narratives the two main characters navigate their respective roles as a lawyer who acts for disaffected Republic Navy staff and his sister, a detective inspector. Both become embroiled in the fallout from the assassination of the Prime Minister, who had planned to reintegrate the CUs with the mainland population. The action unfolds at a breakneck pace over a mere few days, with deftly interwoven flashbacks and interior monologue unobtrusively fleshing out the background. There is a dizzying cast of characters but is anyone who they seem?

A list of the dramatis personae would have been helpful (as would a map or two), but admittedly hard to pull off given so many cloaks and daggers. The writing is assured and crisp. And while I found the ending a slight let down, I accept I might have missed some essential insights in the swirling crescendo of twists and reveals. Overall an addictive read with an original and daring premise.
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