Fresh Meat: Signal by Patrick Lee

Signal by Patrick Lee is the 2nd fast-paced thriller in the Sam Dryden series that features high-concept technology able to peek ten hours into the future (available July 7, 2015).

If Energizer is ever considering a rebrand, they should set their sights on Sam Dryden. An ex-Special Forces agent, Dryden never slows down, and repeatedly puts his life on the line to help those who need it. Signal, by Patrick Lee, is the second book in the Sam Dryden series (after last year’s Runner), and it blends action, science, and conspiracy together in masterful strokes.

When Signal opens, Dryden is attempting to enjoy retirement by purchasing old houses, fixing them up, and then flipping them for profit. It’s honest work, and it has the added bonus of keeping him in shape, which comes in handy in the events that transpire after he receives a frantic phone call from a former colleague, Claire Dunham, who needs his immediate help on a secret mission. Dryden knows that Dunham wouldn’t hyperbolize her situation, and he immediately jumps in the car to meet her. Fast forward a few hours: Dryden and Dunham have successfully saved four kidnapped girls from imminent death, and he's killed the assailant. There’s only one caveat – in the very first chapter of Signal, we see this same scene play out very differently, with all four girls perishing in a fire. So how then, is it possible, that Dryden and Dunham could have saved these girls when we've already seen them die? Did they travel back in time?

Not quite…but sort of.

No, there’s no DeLorean. (And sadly, no hoverboards!) What we have instead is a modified radio that picks up transmissions from ten hours and twenty-four minutes into the future – a fact that left Dryden more than a bit jumbled when Dunham told him how she heard of the murdered girls and set out to stop it:

[Claire] rested her hand on the black box, the green light through the slats silhouetting her fingers. “It picks up radio signals ten hours and twenty-four minutes before they’re transmitted.”

Dryden stared and tried to see how it could be a joke. The trailer had been real. The man he’d killed there had been real. This part, though – no. It had to be some kind of joke, hard as it was to imagine Claire Dunham doing that. It was a hundred eighty degrees from her character.

“You’re reacting the same way I did,” Claire said, “when I first saw it. Anyone would.”

“What you’re talking about isn’t possible,” Dryden said.

“You said it yourself in the trailer: How could I have known? No one in the world, outside that metal cage, could have expected that 9-1-1 call.”

Dryden’s mind went back to the recorded news broadcast. He said, “That audio clip, the reporters talking about the girls being dead—”

“I recorded it last night at nine forty-seven,” Claire said, “when this machine received it.”

“And you’re saying that report will actually be on the radio at eight eleven this morning?”

Dark amusement crossed Claire’s face. “Not now it won’t be.”

Soon after, Dunham and Dryden are ambushed. Dryden eventually escapes, but Dunham is taken prisoner, forcing Dryden to try to piece together the puzzle alone. But he’s not without help for long. Enter Marnie Calvert, an FBI agent whose day began with the investigation into the four young girls who were nearly murdered. Calvert was able to lift a print and place Dryden at the scene, but rather than bring him in for questioning, she tails him, wondering how the man could have known about the kidnapped girls. Eventually their worlds collide and Dryden convinces Calvert to join his cause. From there on out, they work together, and they make quite the powerful pair. Calvert is pragmatic to a tee, and despite Dryden’s superior knowledge of all things warfare, she hardly ever serves as a hindrance. Dryden might be the star of Signal, but Calvert shines just as brightly:

“You don’t have to be part of this,” Dryden said. “I understand why you wanted answers, but now you have them. If you want to walk away, you can.”

It took her a long time to respond. Most of her attention was still on the machine, her mind trying to come to terms with it. Dryden imagined he had looked the same way when Claire had first shown him the thing.

“I can stop in the next town and let you out,” Dryden said. “You can forget you ever heard all of this.”

“I wouldn’t.”

“You know what I mean.”

Marnie nodded. She turned to him. “I know what you mean. I don’t want out.”

By now, you’re probably wondering how dangerous could information from 10 hours from now possibly be? Sure, you could probably rig the lottery or bet on sports successfully, but on a global scale, what actually could be accomplished? And you’d be right – there’s not too much that could be done in such a short amount of time. That’s where you need to understand The Group – the antagonistic force in Signal and a secret organization that not only has their own form of this technology, but also has tweaked it so that it can mine information from years into the future. This spells trouble for our group not only for obvious worldwide-peril reasons, but also because it means that The Group can keep tabs on the future for any instances where Dryden and Calvert create ripples, and they’ll know ten hours and twenty-four minutes ahead of time. What ensues is a hectic and wild game of cat-and-mouse, with each side taking turns in both roles.

The pace of Signal never lets up and Patrick Lee makes sure to throw a few good twists in there. Even though one or two of them are visible ahead of time, it doesn’t matter, because as Sam Dryden proves, you can still be damn impressive, even if they know you're coming.

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Joe Brosnan is an editor and writer for Criminal Element. He’s a New York Giants fan, a Petyr Baelish supporter, and is only now realizing how weird it is to write in the third person. You can follow him on Twitter @joebro33.

Read all of Joe Brosnan’s posts for Criminal Element.

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