Meteorologist Gwen Boudain is the creator of Oracle, a means to better predict and model El Niño, thereby saving many lives and preventing destruction on a massive scale. After years of struggling to be heard, Gwen and Oracle are brought under the lavish wing of Falcon Venture by Dr Gabriel Messenger, its charismatic owner who has his own ambitious project – he is able to control rain. The advantages (both to humanity and good business) of having the power to increase or decrease rain in different parts of the world are obviously limitless. But Gwen’s knowledge in the wrong hands would be a dangerous thing. As Gwen warns, California is as much at risk from an ARk Storm as it is from ‘The Big One’ and all it would take to trigger the perfect storm, the Atmospheric River 1000 which would leave the state in ruin, is one more contributory factor.
Everything is about to fall into place for one man, the man who is having Gwen watched and who dreams of conducting jihad by weather.
Ark Storm is a rich and engaging thriller, which focuses more on people and their motivations than on the disaster itself. The result is a clever novel, with just enough science to make its premise believable and enough personality insight to intrigue the reader in the characters who walk across its pages. I really liked Gwen, or ‘Boudy’. She’s no walkover, but a fit and active surfer who lives with her dog Leo on Hurricane Point, a place that exists as a reminder that hurricanes do not belong solely on the east coast of the United States.
For much of the novel, Gwen learns to fall in love with Dan, a journalist who had all the wrong reasons for being originally interested in Gwen. But as the story develops, it becomes clear that there is much more to Dan than first meets the eye and this is actually true of a fair few of the characters that we meet. First impressions change. But also Gwen, like others here, has sadness or troubles in her past which influence the present and future.
Ark Storm is a thriller and it slowly builds into a thoroughly exciting one – I read the second half in one sitting. The action follows a tense and intriguing first half in which conspiracies, science, suspicion and deception, mixed in with a fair bit of glamour and beautiful scenery, build until Gwen hardly knows what to believe. All of it is written with a great deal of care and detail. This is a very well-written novel which works well around the common thriller tropes – Gwen is not your typical heroine and a number of the other characters come with their own surprises.
Linda Davies might make us wait for the disaster but when it happens the book is as unputownable as it had been intriguing and tense before. In keeping with the rest of the novel, the end is not only satisfactory it is also far more believable than I’m used to in many thrillers. I was enthralled throughout. Without doubt, I’ll be seeking out more books from Linda Davies.