Rebecca Cantrell’s Joe Tesla Series

rebecca_cantrellAbout the author:


Freie Universität in Berlin

Georg August Universität in Göttingen

B.A. – German, Creative Writing and European Studies, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA


Thriller Sub-genre: Techno-thriller

Future of the series: The latest book was released on July 3, 2017 which is entitled The Steel Shark.

My Review of the Latest in the Series The Steel Shark

The Simon Review

I LOVE quirky characters, and Rebecca Cantrell’s Joe Tesla is undoubtedly a quirky character.  A millionaire software genius, Tesla is afflicted with agoraphobia, an anxiety disorder that results in panic attacks when confronted with certain situations, and in Tesla’s case being out-of-doors.  So in order to avoid being exposed to the great outdoors, Tesla takes refuge in New York City’s subterranean world.  To join him in his isolation is his psychiatric service dog, Edison, a lab/golden retriever mix who becomes Tesla’s closest friend.  Together they live in a (fictional) Victorian style house built below ground.  If having agoraphobia isn’t quirky enough for you, Tesla also has synesthesia, an unusual condition in which stimulation of one sensory perception, such as smell, stimulates another sensory perception, such as taste.  In Tesla’s case he has what is known as color-graphemic synesthesia, he ‘sees’ numbers as having a specific color.

You would think that living underground by yourself would be rather boring, but a lot goes on in Tesla’s dark sub-terrestrial world, such as hidden secrets and murder.  Needing to find a way to be useful, Tesla becomes involved in solving these mysteries using his talent with computers and technology to guide him.  But not all is fun and games, Tesla’s life is often in jeopardy along with his trusting friend, Edison, which leads to some thrilling moments.

Rebecca Cantrell is a rising star in the thriller world, as she also co-writes with thriller-god, James Rollins.  Rollins met Cantrell when he was teaching a writing course at a writer’s retreat when Cantrell was a student.  He was so impressed with her writing abilities that he asked her if she would coauthor with him on a new series, the Order of the Sanguines.  I figured if James Rollins likes Cantrell’s writing she must be good and I would have to agree with him.

If you like thrills that also includes dogs, then I think you will like the Joe Tesla series.  The novels are designed to be standalones, but I would suggest at least reading the first in the series, The World Beneath, before reading the others to get a good understanding of the characters.

Simon’s pick:

Most Favorite Novel in the Series- Probably The Chemistry of Death because being the chemist that I am, I like that chemistry was in the title.

Least Favorite Novel in the Series- I don’t really have a least favorite novel for this series.

What about the science? Each novel has a general science theme; The World Beneath is about a bioweapon, The Tesla Legacy is about Nikola Tesla’s so-called ‘earthquake machine’, and The Chemistry of Death is about using chemistry to murder.  Cantrell is not a scientist but she is very thorough in her research into the science that she uses in each of her novels.

The Joe Tesla Technical Word in Review: Tapetum lucidum– Have you ever found a situation when your cat or dog in a low light situation had glowing eyes as if some demon had possessed them?  Well blame that on the tapetum lucidum, a piece of tissue located in the back of the eye and its purpose is to reflect light back to the retina which gives nocturnal animals enhanced night vision.  The glowing eyes is known as ‘eye shine’ and can be in different colors depending on the animal, for example green in cats and dogs and blue in horses.  Eye shine should not be confused with the red eye effect which is often seen when we use the flash while taking photographs.  Red eye is caused by pools of blood found in the part of the eye known as the choroid. Humans don’t have a tapetum lucidum, so they don’t have eye shine.

No, this is not a scene from a Stephen King movie.

Image from Wikipedia

laser eyes
But this might be.

Image from Flickr

The tapetum lucidum has some interesting physical properties that results in its ability to reflect.  It has multiple layers of tissue and uses the properties of thin-film interference to reflect different wavelengths of light.  We see thin-film interference at work when we see colors reflected off of a soap bubble or an oil slick.  Additionally, the cells of the tapetum lucidum harbors reflective chemicals and the types are specific to the animal.  In cats, the chemical is riboflavin also known as Vitamin B2, which has fluorescent properties and fluoresces at a wavelength that is close to the absorption wavelength of rhodopsin, a light sensitive protein found in the rod cells of the retina which are the cells responsible for night vision. In dogs, the chemical is zinc cysteine and in other animals it maybe guanine or collagen.

Edison’s eyes were good in the dark. Turned out, dogs could see almost as well in the darkness as cats. The tapetum lucidum at the back of a dog’s eye refracted the light back through the retina, like a cat’s or a bat’s.

Books in the Series by Order:

Most Favorite in the series: The Steel Shark with a score of 4.37

Least Favorite in the series: The World Beneath with a score of 4.15

Based on overall ratings from Goodreads, Library Thing, Rakuten Kobo, and Amazon

World_Beneath#1-The World Beneath- 2013

Winner of the 2014 ITW Thriller Award for Best E-Book Original Novel

First Line:

Dr. Berger looked into the long dark mouth of the tunnel.


Joe Tesla: Multi-millionaire software genius with a bad case of agoraphobia

Edison: Joe’s psychiatric service dog

Ozan Saddiq: Hired assassin

Daniel Rossi: Joe’s lawyer

Vivian Torres: Ex-military, hired by Rossi to protect Joe Tesla

Celeste Gallo: Tesla’s ex-girlfriend, has Lou Gehrig’s disease

Leonardo Gallo: Celeste’s twin brother

Dirk: Torres friend and a cop

The Setting

New York City

Software millionaire Joe Tesla is set to ring the bell on Wall Street the morning his company goes public. On what should be the brightest day in his life, he is instead struck with severe agoraphobia. The sudden dread of the outside is so debilitating, he can’t leave his hotel at Grand Central Terminal, except to go underground. Bad luck for Joe, because in the tunnels lurk corpses and murderers, an underground Victorian mansion and a mysterious bricked-up 1940s presidential train car. Joe and his service dog, Edison, find themselves pursued by villains and police alike, their only salvation now is to unearth the mystery that started it all, a deadly, contagious madness on the brink of escaping The World Beneath.

Tonight he’d caught a glimpse of something new, something exciting- a mystery that was to be found only in the world beneath. He had to solve it. He had to figure out who Rebar was, why he was there, and how the train car came to be bricked in. It might be dangerous, but he’d risk a lot to keep feeling this alive.

Looking for a review of The World Beneath?  Check out:

A Lovely Little Book Blog

Renee Conoulty

The Writing Train

Reads & Reels

Amazon Rating: 4.43 out of 5 stars based on 905 ratings

Rakuten Kobo Rating: 4.24 out of 5 stars based on 261 ratings

GoodReads Rating: 4.06 out of 5 stars based on 2,910 ratings

Library Thing Rating: 4.02 out of 5 stars based on 31 ratings

Total Score 4.15 (updated 10/21/20)





Tesla_Legacy#2-The Tesla Legacy- 2015

First Line:

Most men would not care about a simple pigeon, but Nikola Tesla was not most men.


Joe Tesla, Edison, Daniel Rossi, Vivian Torres, Celeste Gallo, Leandro Gallo and Dirk

Tatiana Tesla: Joe’s mother

Alan Wright: Multimillionaire that made his fortune in green technology

The Setting

New York City

Still crippled by agoraphobia and confined to the tunnels under New York City, Joe is haunted by the fact that he cannot even attend his father’s funeral. His father’s death brings threats to the safety of Joe’s underground home: guilt over the broken relationship that can never be healed, a mysterious box of papers inherited from eccentric inventor Nikola Tesla, and a ruthless enemy determined to steal those papers no matter the cost. Mystified by why his inheritance is so valuable, Joe and his service dog, Edison, follow clues left a century ago by Joe’s famous ancestor to reveal the power of his family legacy. While Joe must rely on his considerable talents as a hacker, he must also reach out to friends. But whom can he trust as he battles to save his beloved city from . . . The Tesla Legacy?

Looking for a review of The Tesla Legacy?  Check out:


A Lovely Little Book Blog

Claire Loves to Read

Amazon Rating-US: 4.50 out of 5 stars based on 293 ratings

Rakuten Kobo Rating: 4.26 out of 5 stars based on 100 ratings

GoodReads Rating: 4.22 out of 5 stars based on 962 ratings

Library Thing Rating: 3.97 out of 5 stars based on 16 ratings

Total Score 4.28 (updated 10/21/20)





Chemistry_of_Death#3-The Chemistry of Death- 2015

Listed #228 out of 553 on Goodreads Best Technothrillers Ever Book List

Listed #111 out of 168 on Goodreads Best Science Thrillers Book List

First Line:

Ziggy smiled when the women’s designer shoes slipped on the train ties.


Joe Tesla, Edison, Daniel Rossi, Vivian Torres, Celeste Gallo, Leandro Gallo, Dirk and Alan Wright

The Setting

New York City

Tortured genius Joe Tesla is on the trail of a sadistic serial killer who charms his victims into the bowels of the Manhattan subway system–and who holds the keys to Joe’s crippling condition. Can Joe stop the murderous rampage of this silver-tongued killer, or will he become the next victim?

Looking for a review of The Chemistry of Death?  Check out:



A Lovely Little Book Blog

Amazon Rating-US: 4.54 out of 5 stars based on 147 ratings

Rakuten Kobo Rating: 4.37 out of 5 stars based on 49 ratings

GoodReads Rating: 4.29 out of 5 stars based on 645 ratings

Library Thing Rating: 4.00 out of 5 stars based on 8 ratings

Total Score 4.33 (updated 10/21/20)



#4-The Steel Shark- 2017

My Review of The Steel Shark

First Line:

The boarded the plane as women, but they left it as men.


Joe Tesla, Edison, and Vivian Torres

His dog. His computer. The tunnels under New York City.

That’s all Joe Tesla’s agoraphobia has left him with—the inside world, the dark world—and now the black depths of the sea.

In the latest book in this award-winning thriller series, Joe Tesla seeks to expand his world beneath. He buys a personal submarine to join an underwater scavenger hunt. The competition turns deadly when a mystery sub targets Joe. His search for answers drives him and his service dog out to sea where he alone might find answers in time to save the city he loves from annihilation.

But can a man trapped inside by his own fears save the larger world above?

“We have built you a shadow,” he said. “This is the most sophisticated diesel electric submarine in the world. No other vessel can hide under the waves so well as this. It is truly a marvel of Chinese engineering.”

“It is a silent as a steel shark.”

“And just as deadly,” he responded.

Looking for a review of The Steel Shark?  Check out:

Read & Reels

A Lovely Little Book Blog

Mystery Suspense Reviews


Amazon Rating: 4.70 out of 5 stars based on 98 ratings

Rakuten Kobo Rating: 4.59 out of 5 stars based on 51 ratings

GoodReads Rating: 4.27 out of 5 stars based on 353 ratings

Library Thing Rating: 3.50 out of 5 stars based on 2 ratings

Total Score 4.37 (updated 10/21/20)