Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks

With a series of breakneck twists and turns, Jinks’s (the Pagan Chronicles) latest novel follows Cadel Piggott, a seven-year-old Australian boy with an incredible mind and a proclivity toward mischief: “He loved systems: phone systems, electrical systems, car engines, complicated traffic intersections.” Following a string of disasters, which Cadel engineers (e.g., hacking into the city’s power grid), his desperate adoptive parents take him to a psychologist, Dr. Thaddeus Roth. But instead of refocusing Cadel on more positive activities, Dr. Roth encourages the boy to develop increasingly destructive plans, such as orchestrating massive traffic jams and manipulating his classmates’ emotions so that they turn on one another. Dr. Roth also stuns Cadel by revealing that he is employed by Cadel’s birth father, Dr. Phineas Darkkon, a criminal mastermind serving a life sentence. From prison, Dr. Darkkon established the Axis Institute for the world’s genetically talented and criminally inclined. Drs. Roth and Darkkon convince Cadel to join its small freshman class, and Cadel slowly uncovers a conspiracy of lies and betrayals that leave no aspect of his life untouched. Jinks has created an intricate, well-constructed and layered reality in this hefty novel, and as the complex deceptions that have shaped Cadel’s life come to light, his emotional unraveling and awakening will likely engross readers.

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