Deep Fake: A Thriller

Image of Deep Fake: A Thriller
Release Date: 
March 14, 2023
Forge Books
Reviewed by: 

“Move over David Baldacci, a new thriller author is in town.”

Ward Larsen’s new book Deep Fake starts off on the run and the pace only increases with each chapter.

Bryce Ridgeway is a junior Congressman and ex-marine, with a wife Sarah, and a teenage daughter, Alyssa. His life is good, and he’s happy to serve his country.

When he attends a presidential candidate’s fundraiser and sees a curious situation begin to unfold before his eyes, his military training kicks in and he rushes forward to take action. As a jihadi suicide bomber moves close to the candidate, Bryce tackles the man, throws him over the railing to a 15-story drop, and almost loses his own life at the same time.

iPhone videos and camera recordings catch the whole event, and soon Bryce’s heroism has gone viral. The growing multitude of videos from every direction catch the attention of Henry Arbogast, Chairman of the RNC, who recognizes the opportunity that unfolds in front of him. With a cast of old-age candidates for the upcoming presidential election, Ridgeway registers high on Henry’s radar as a potential winner.

Henry approaches Bryce with the idea, and after a discussion with Sarah and Alyssa the die is cast. The story could have ended there, but Larsen has more in store for his readers . . . much, much more.

Larsen introduces a new character in FBI agent Troy Burke, who is charged with interviewing Bryce about the incident. As Burke reviews the videos from all angles, his brain begins to itch. An issue about the bomber and the delay in the bomb going off raises questions, but Burke is not sure why. The itch won’t go away.

As Bryce’s campaign takes off and the hero is worshipped for his actions, life at home takes on subtle changes, as Sarah begins to recognize small but obvious deviations in Bryce’s behavior.

Sarah begins to wonder if the changes she sees are due to the grind of the cross-country campaign. But the worries won’t go away, and Sarah contacts Claire, her best friend from college, to confide that she thinks Bryce is having an affair.

Claire oversees EPIC, a DOD project that deals with data analysis, and she tells Sarah that EPIC is about to be shut down because funding has disappeared. As the two women lament their lives, Claire suggests that perhaps EPIC can do a little digging into Bryce’s activities and determine if an affair is, indeed, happening.

Claire begins her dive into Bryce’s life only to learn there are more questions than answers. Although Larsen has set the story at a good opening pace, Claire’s findings begin to ramp up the speed and the story takes off in several directions.

As time moves on, Sarah becomes convinced that the changes she is seeing can mean only one thing—Bryce is not Bryce. She begins to wonder if there is a twin in Bryce’s history that has moved directly into his life, but if that can even possibly be true, where is her Bryce?

Through information gleaned from EPIC, Sarah and Claire discover a condo that Bryce has been visiting, and they enter it when Bryce is away. What they find is even more confusing than his subtle changes. The condo is a virtual hub of computer activity. They learn that the Ridgeway house has been targeted with hidden cameras throughout, and they further discover files of material on Bryce’s personal history.

Agent Burke’s curiosity has taken its own turn, and when Sarah contacts Agent Burke and tells him about the condo, the itch in his brain becomes more bothersome. But when he arrives at the condo, he discovers it has been burned to the ground—the result of arson.

In the meantime, Larsen takes his reader to an uninhabited small town in the northern-most part of Russia, where the real Bryce has been kidnapped and tortured. Larsen’s description of the events through which Bryce has been put force the reader to turn pages quickly.

As the pace continues to increase, Larsen now takes his reader through several points of view—Sarah, Claire, Burke, Bryce 1, and Bryce 2. In spite of the fact that the reader knows—or is at least sure—that all will turn out right in the end, it’s a matter of getting to the end as quickly as possible to have their thoughts proven correct.

Larsen takes his reader through a wide variety of twists and turns, changing good guys to bad guys, giving the really bad guys their deserved comeuppance—all while leaving the reader wondering who will survive. Would the “prospect of installing a mole as president of the United States . . .” succeed or fail? The reader does not find out the truth until the end of the book and no one should try to second guess Ward Larsen.

Some subtle foreshadowing and well-placed clues are clearly tied up at the end. Move over David Baldacci, a new thriller author is in town.