The Exphoria Code

Antony Johnston. Pegasus Crime, $25.95 (416p) ISBN 978-1-64313-527-4

MI6 cyber-analyst Brigitte Sharp, the heroine of this intriguing if flawed series launch from comics author Johnston (The Coldest City), was a teenage hacker who avoided prison by going to work for the British government in the Cyber Threat Analytics unit. She has been a field agent, but lost that status in an incident that still haunts her. Sharp’s boss in London wants her back in the field, but she balks, until she feels compelled to investigate the suspicious death of Tenebrae_Z, a friend and fellow hacker. She determines that Tenebrae_Z’s death might have security implications. Later, she looks into a suspected breach of a secret project in France, where a mole appears to be stealing secrets. Sharp turns out to be quite resourceful, physically and mentally, and thrilling action scenes keep the pages turning, but readers should be prepared for too much exposition and paint-by-numbers characterizations. Johnston’s obvious talent suggests he can do better in the sequel. Agent: Sarah Such, Sarah Such Literary (U.K.). (Oct.)