Stassi is a ‘runner’ – essentially a thief that travels to the past and acquires goodies the affluent in her present desire. The story is primarily set in 1925 France where she and a partner have been sent to obtain an unpublished manuscript. They must infiltrate the author’s social circles by drinking at parties and attending plays until they gain enough information to locate the hidden book.
I’m almost certain this was the original pitch for Syndicate but when Sophie Davis – a pseudonym for both authors – read it over, somebody must have thought the plot was too boring and insisted on adding multiple elements that turn this story into a mishmash of ideas that are stitched together with mounds of enthusiasm but inevitably turned out a bit ugly. There is a murderer whose presence serves only as a source of conflict in between the nauseatingly cheerful banter between Stassi’s company (people in this book smile too much) and a love interest because no respectable narrative is complete without one. There are other trails that lead nowhere but I can’t identify them without getting into spoilers on the off chance this all sounds pretty good to you.
My fundamental issue with Syndicate however is our mockery of a heroine, Stassi. This is unfortunate, her being the main character and all. First, the authors gave her a half-baked backstory which fails to brew any empathy because she says herself hundreds of others went through the same thing and she’s actually more fortunate than the rest. Boohoo. Secondly, despite being educated and claiming to have a broad skillset physically and mentally, she is jarringly dumb. Her great motivation in life is to find the identity of her birth parents and starts looking for clues in 1925. Stassi fails to mention why it’s a good idea to look 500 years in the past rather than time travelling to the day she was abandoned.
Despite being instrumental in the profits of a billion dollar enterprise, Stassi displays a lack of professionalism, discipline and general skill that leads you to question how she hasn’t been fired or killed already. She retains a wealth of historical knowledge made less impressive by the likelihood it’s her experienced history too. All notable achievements pertaining to their mission can be traced back to the merits of her colleagues.
Syndicate is a sci-fi, murder mystery, romance novel for any teen that is looking for a casual read. Any theme that’s itching to be touched is scratched lightly – the skin goes unbroken. People have no depth; everybody is either nice or not so nice. They don’t have their own personalities making them predictable and uninteresting. There’s one instance when a man that’s been very kind throughout breaks someone’s cigarette holder. But it’s not the character you learn about, you know they did it not because they don’t like cigarettes. By this point we can tell Sophie Davis doesn’t like cigarettes. Sophie Davis also likes pretty dresses and their favourite eye colour is green.
There’s a decent story in here that’s been muddied by its constant coursing off stream and picking up excess dirt. If Sophie Davis had met more people with clashing opinions and were a decade older I’m certain this would have been a book even I’d have liked but I’ve lived too long and read too much for Syndicate to impress me. And I’m only 23.
To round this up, I’d like to quote Stassi:
‘This was bad. Very, very bad. So very, very bad.’
Reviewed by Jamie Lama-Martin