The Alter by Joel Knox is a CIA thriller with a surprising twist. James Hyde seems like you’re average run of the mill computer geek. He’s gifted with CPUs but not muscles. When his dreams of becoming a field agent are dashed as a trainee James settles in to a successful career in cyber-security. Then one day James gets his big break. An opportunity to run ops on a mission in the UK. Of course like any good thriller everything goes terribly wrong and James is blamed.

The following morning James is surprised he’s even alive. After hacking into CIA footage he discovers he has another self and its an eight foot tall homicidal monster. James has no idea what is happening, but he does know that he isn’t responsible for the mess the night before. His only option is to run. The monster or alternative him aids his escape and allows James to fight another day.

The plot continues to piece Jame’s life together in a series of betrayals, conspiracies, and government coverups. He’s hounded across the globe both in human and alter form as the CIA tries to eliminate James and his other self. His only hope of survival is learning to control his Alter and stopping the man giving the kill order.

This book was a surprise for me. I don’t normally read CIA novels or anything remotely realistic. I enjoyed this book and was intrigued by the story line and plot. I felt like it was a paranormal twist on Jason Bourne and really liked the action sequences. I turned the pages as fast as I could for the first 200 or so pages. Then the plot took a weird twist and it kind of lost me. I won’t say what it was because it would spoil the book. It wasn’t a bad twist just unexpected and odd. I wasn’t sure whether I liked it or not so I held off the review for several days trying to decide.

The odd twist late in the book combined with a key point or two at the end lowered the believable factor for me. They made the book feel less like CIA thriller and more like comic book fantasy and it was hard to resolve the two things mashed together. I wouldn’t say that the book isn’t worth reading though. Any book that can convince me to read outside my genre is well worth the time.

This was Joel Knox’s second book and it was well written with only a few typos and small grammatical problems. For the most part they don’t interrupt the flow of the story and are easily ignored. So for the weird plot twist that made me go huh? and other issues this book gets four stars. I can’t wait to see what Joel Knox writes next.

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