by Catherine Jinks
In the sequel to Evil Genius, fifteen-year-old computer whiz Cadel Piggott tries to put the Axis Institude of World Domination behind him. But it's hard. Since his father, criminal mastermind Prosper English, refuses to acknowledge their relationship, there is no record of where Cadel comes from. Australia doesn't want him. The USA won't take him. Even if Prosper claims him, that would only mean being deported to a miserable Scottish sheep farm and the custody of his only surviving relative.
Meanwhile, Cadel lives in a limbo known as the Australian foster-care system. Lately, this means dealing with a foster brother whose nickname, Mace, is as violent as his personality. Even Saul, the Canadian-born policeman in charge of Cadel's witness-protection detail, and Fiona, his social worker, are hard put to protect him. Cadel and best friend Sonja, whose severe cerebral palsy means she needs special care, just want to find a place where they can be safe together.
When such a place suddenly turns up, Cadel should be suspicious. But it's not hard to be disarmed when he knows Clearview House really is too good to be true. On the surface, it seems to be a halfway house for troubled teens like himself, with facilities for a disabled kid like Sonja. Below the surface -- literally -- is a secret "War Room" full of computers (another plus for Cadel). The staff and residents are a "Genius Squad" of cyber-spies, secretly digging for evidence against a sinister corporation called GenoME, part of the same criminal empire that ran the Axis Institute. Unable to resist the offer of a safe place to live with Sonja, unlimited time on a state-of-the-art computer, and a chance to fight evil, Cadel accepts Clearview House's offer... even though it means lying to the people who are trying to protect him.
Keeping Saul and Fiona in the dark about Genius Squad proves increasingly tricky. It's all Cadel can do to hide the War Room and the activities of his housemates, even at the best of times. But when Mace comes after him, the deception becomes harder to keep up. Harder still when Cadel's old school-friend Gazo Kovacs turns up and needs to be persuaded to cooperate with the police. Harder still when another ex-Axis student attempts to assassinate Prosper English in prison. Hardest of all when Cadel's snooping uncovers a GenoME plan to finish Prosper off.
Evil as his father is, Cadel doesn't want him killed. But this concern becomes a different kind of fear when Prosper escapes from prison and tracks down Cadel with terrifying ease. The remainder of the book is thus a duel of wits between a seasoned criminal genius and his one-time protegé who is trying to go straight. On his side Prosper has a network of henchmen, including a master of disguise and more than a fair share of traitors; plus he has a hostage, a diabolical plan, and a gun. Cadel only has wits, desperation, and one other weapon bad guys never seem to understand: a heart full of love.
This could be a liability when he is in the power of a crafty crook who wants to form Cadel in his image, and when the people Cadel loves the most are at risk. But it could also be the best hope for a boy who has been raised, from an early age, to look for spectacular ways to hurt people. Maybe he can fight back against the man who did this to him without sinking to his level. Maybe he can get everyone out of this alive. And maybe he can even find love and happiness that are not twisted by wicked plans. Only one thing is certain. If the excitement and emotional turmoil of this adventure don't wear you out, you'll be eager to read the third book in this trilogy, The Genius Wars, available in Australia in November 2009 and in the US in 2010.
St. Louis, USA
Recommended Age: 14+
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