The Expansion, by Christoph Martin (2017)

Thriller
Adult
The Expansion, by Christoph MartinPutting in a bid to engineer the expansion of the Panama Canal is an opportunity hydrogeologist and engineer Max Burns simply cannot pass up. If they win, it will be an amazing career achievement. Even the bid is a lengthy commitment, so when Max jumps on board, his fiancée calls off the engagement. But there’s plenty of positives for the good-looking engineer, including catch-up time with his boarding school buddy Godfredo Roco, who, along with his father Paco Roco, is heading the bid submission. Fredo hasn’t changed much – sure, he’s a smart-ass womanizer who lives the high life, but he is fiercely loyal, including to the father whom he hates. Paco is an astute and unscrupulous businessman, determined to beat the competition at any cost. But Paco has his own plans for the project, and Max is poised to become a useful scapegoat. He teams up with biologist Karis Deen, only to find she has some big secrets of her own. The book opens with the unexpected murder/suicide of Max’s parents, setting the stage for Max and Fredo’s unlikely friendship. The pacing then eases to a slow burn, but the last quarter of the book takes off with surprising reveals and twists. Toss in some political backstabbing, double-crossing, and Machiavellian manoeuvres, and you have an impressive plot with a generally well-resolved ending, though one question remains, setting up the reader for a sequel. The characters are quite well-developed, complicated and torn, though I must address what I feel is a deeply sexist slant to the book. The women in the novel are all strong, independent, and smart. But nearly every man treats them as sexual toys, or at best is distracted by their beauty. This pissed me off more than once, but I persisted because overall the plotting and pacing are quite good. Given the recent news around women’s mistreatment in various workplaces, this element cannot be overlooked. It’s Martin’s first book, written with an uncredited co-author Libby O’Loghlin. As this is the first of an intended four titles in the series, I hope they are paying attention and adjust the sexist tone in the sequel. I don’t care if “that’s how business works” – in this book it’s so pervasive it’s deeply offensive. Stop it.
My thanks to the author for the advance reading copy provided through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
The Expansion hasn’t attracted a lot of attention on Goodreads, but you can find a couple of reviews. It did get from nice nod from Kirkus through its Indie program.
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