An imaginative and well-crafted puzzle box of a story, Europe in Autumn (The Fractured Europe Sequence Book 1) by Dave Hutchinson (@HutchinsonDave) is an ultimately satisfying genre mix of science fiction and spy thriller.
First things first: the book seemed to take a long time developing a recognizable plot. A third or so of the way in, I began to wonder not where the story was going, but *if* it was going anywhere. To be sure, the scenes were well-written and interesting, providing important background on the near-future setting and main character, but the book seemed to be just a series of vignettes.
But then dots began to not only come into view, but become connected. Not every secret is revealed or event explained, but enough information is provided for careful readers to get a better sense of what’s going on. I’m glad I kept going as in the end I really enjoyed the way the story came together.
Set in a near-future Europe, the book has a topical premise: Buffeted by economic reverses, paranoia about refugees and the ongoing War on Terror, the Europe Union begins to crack apart. Then a flu pandemic blazes through, severely depopulating and — as the subtitle indicates — fracturing the continent. Increasingly smaller nations begin to appear as cities, regions, minority ethnic groups, the descendants of royal houses long forgotten, and even corporations demand independence.
While the European Union boasted free movement, the new nations and state-lets popping up have dramatically increased the number and complexity of borders that must be crossed for business or personal reasons. Enter Les Coureurs des Bois, a non-affiliated organization that can be hired to move documents, objects and even people from place A to place B with no questions asked. Depending on the “package” coureur agents can be simple mail carriers or James Bond as a FedEx agent.
The reader’s guide to this world is Rudi, a restaurant chef recruited into the organization. Rudi is intelligent and thinks well on his feet, but has a stubborn streak — especially when challenged. His career as a coureur gets off to a somewhat rocky start before settling out, but when a job goes wrong Rudi finds himself involved in something more complex than package delivery.
To say much more than that would spoil the fun for future readers. Just know that I immediately added the second book of the series to my To Read List, and was very pleased to see a third mentioned on the author’s website.