The Alo Release is a pulsating thriller exposing the potential for public opinion to be manipulated during an international crisis.
Nine days before the global release of a genetically modified seed coating set to make starvation history, the IT advisor for an environmental group receives a cryptic email from an old friend working for the seed corporation.
The email triggers a frantic manhunt from the glass towers of Los Angeles to the towering rainforests of New Zealand as the corporation’s security chief tries to track down and silence the English IT advisor and his colleagues – an American biologist and New Zealand eco-warrior.
As the clock ticks down to the much-anticipated and highly stage-managed release of the coated seeds, the trio are pitched against ruthless corporate thugs, law enforcement agencies, politicians, journalists and bloggers – and the overwhelming weight of world opinion – as they race to unravel the truth behind the email.
Read the Prologue
Jay Duggan is a New Zealand eco-warrior who has been involved in campaigns in several continents – capturing evidence of the destruction of the famous forests around Kunar in Afghanistan, sabotaging a gold and copper mine polluting a sacred river on the Jayawijaya Ridge in Papua New Guinea, leading a mission against a biotech facility in the heart of the Amazon, where thousands of square miles of rainforest were being destroyed to plant genetically modified soybeans.
Catherine (Cat) Tayler is director of science at the Los Angeles-based Millbrook Foundation, an NGO set up to counter the menace of genetic modification. The catalyst for her environmental activism was a school project on fish dying downstream from a chemical plant near her home in Utah. It led to a PhD in microbiology from the University of California.
Englishman Matthew Liddell is IT director at the Millbrook Foundation. He was headhunted for the role and enticed to Los Angeles not long after being listed as one of the ten most dangerous hackers in the world.
Bradley Kaufman is the security chief for Vestco, the multinational corporation behind the genetically modified Alo seed coating. He served in the Marines for several years, then with US Special Forces before joining Vestco, where he has developed a special interest in counter eco-terrorism.
Chas Petersen, the Vice President of Vestco, is counting down to the biggest payout of his life. The sort of money never dreamed of during his career in politics. More than enough to fund a disappearance, a new identity, and in one dramatic sweep remove all the skeletons from the closet.
Detective Inspector Chris Hansen is a fast tracker in New Zealand’s Criminal Investigation Bureau, thanks to leadership roles in two recent high profile homicide inquiries. She joined the police after a double degree in law and international relations. She is known to her colleagues as Pahi, which means boss in Maori.
Without giving too much away, the novel is peppered with a memorable collection of secondary characters, from Vestco Corporation chairman Jozef Pyjas who is convinced genetic modification is the only viable solution to dramatically increase food production – to Sir Jack, a treasured Maori elder adamant that GM will mess with the mauri (life force) of species and change the natural order of things, including his whakapapa (ancestry).
Others (in no particular order) include Brad Kaufman’s daughter Eve, who is suffering from a rare and deadly form of childhood cancer; Whatu Kenana – a native plant expert and descendant of a famous Maori prophet; Norton Deakes – a sniper who clocked up over 250 kills with the United States Army Marksmanship Unit before becoming a mercenary; Abdiel Nazim – a former Mossad agent who specializes in elimination through mechanical or chemical means; and Skip – a beer-gutted cray fisherman with no interest in a reward or American dollars because ‘they don’t take that monopoly money at the pub’.
Then there are the ‘aunties’. Aunty Fay is wrinkled like one of those Chinese Shar-Pei dogs, glasses with lenses half an inch thick, and a smile as warm as a coal range in a snowstorm; Aunty Joan yaks away like a pinball on steroids, and her possum pies (‘trapped em and skinned em myself dear’) are more popular than neighboring stalls selling fish eyeballs and wasp larvae ice cream at the Wildfoods Festival.
The Alo Release is an international novel, transporting readers to settings as diverse as the Chateau de Rambouillet southwest of Paris and a parched rice field near Mandawa in Rajasthan, India.
The book opens in downtown Los Angeles in offices near Pershing Square, and returns to the city throughout for critical scenes in a federal courthouse, a suite in the Biltmore Hotel, a biotech lab in Pasedena, the hip Alcove Café, and for hors d’oeuvres at the Hotel Bel-Air.
In New Zealand readers will pass through (in no particular order) the major metropolitan centres of Auckland, post-earthquake Christchurch and the capital city of Wellington.
Smaller centres featured include the tiny fishing village of Ngawi in the Wairarapa, Hot Water Beach on the Coromandel Peninsula, the former mining town of Ross on the West Coast of the South Island, the ‘cultural capital’ of Rotorua, Whitcombe Pass – a little-known route across the Southern Alps, the beach resort of Whangamata, the art deco city of Napier, and Te Urewera National Park – famed for its stunning lakes, forests and turbulent history.
As the storyline races towards the global release of Alo, scenes capture important developments at Central Park in New York, a relief camp in southern Somalia, a Sunday market in Ghana, the Plaza Dorrego in Buenos Aires, the Edwards Airforce Base in California, Lake Turkana in Kenya, the Rajpath in Delhi, Tiananmen Square and the Park Hyatt in Beijing, and Wembley Stadium in London.