It’s sometime in the not-so-distant future and everyone in the world is being driven around in Googlecars. Everyone, that is, except world-famous actor Desmond Jenson. He’s happily tooling around in a 2012 Tesla, oblivious to the laws that now prohibit non–automated cars on the roads of sunny Southern California.

It’s a fascinating scenario, and this dynamite novel makes the most of it, delivering a well-written police procedural/apocalyptic/mystery tale that tells us what might happen if we let technology take over.

Desmond is a top-tier television star with a successful series and a smokin’-hot co-star named Mimi Theroux. They’ve just discovered that the producers are about to ease them out in favor of actors appealing to a younger demographic when the unthinkable occurs.

The Googlecars stop running. Everywhere.

It’s a real-world, shocking mystery, but it plants a plot seed in Desmond’s mind that should help them hang onto their contracts. He gathers up Mimi and a cameraman and they hit the freeways in Desmond’s Tesla, doing in real life what they purport to do every week on television — bust the perps and send them off to prison where they belong. Only this time, it’s on live TV.

The new reality-style show is a big hit, gathering almost a 50 percent market share for its time slot and boosting Desmond’s and Mimi’s popularity to new heights. They solve four cases almost single-handedly, while LAPD detectives ride along. Desmond is offered a position in the official police force. He declines.

Meanwhile, a multinational team of cybercrime stoppers is working hard to bring the transportation grid back online. Food deliveries and emergency services have been severely curtailed and worldwide starvation now looms large.

In Hollywood, even the ubiquitous bottled water usually in every actor’s hand has disappeared, and Desmond makes a wry observation that shows that deprivation of the essentials is all relative:

“Did you know you can actually drink the water that comes out of a tap?” he asks with a completely straight face. “Really?” his agent responds. “I’ll have to try that.”

But the search for those behind the paralyzing attack goes on with grim resolve. The tension ratchets up exponentially as food supplies begin running out and riots rule the streets each night.

Finally, the list of probable suspects is narrowed down to several survivalist groups scattered around the world. What’s their motive? That’s less clear. And the computer code that will start the Googlecars running again continues to elude the electronics SWAT team. And there’s more. The end of civilization as we know it is imminent.

This taut psychological thriller — part Dragnet, part The Late, Great Planet Earth — offers an illuminating glimpse into Hollywood’s less glamorous side as Desmond and Mimi maneuver to stay on top in the ratings race while trying to save the planet at the same time. And the author’s talent for giving incredible depth to even the most minor character adds a layer of believability rarely found in other books of this genre.

Will the solution be found in time to transport food and medical supplies to the areas hardest hit? Will the new reality show blockbuster be enough to save the careers of Desmond and Mimi? And can a final, horrific disaster be averted before time runs out?

Find out for yourself by downloading this marvelous five-star mystery that makes all too clear the consequences of the age-old maxim: “Be careful what you ask for.” In the case of too much technology, “You just might get it.”

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