A Washington, D.C., attorney packs his bags for Kansas City, where he takes on drug-dealing mobsters, in this thriller.
After years in Washington, Jeff Trask requests a transfer to the Kansas City U.S. Attorney’s office, where his lawyer friend Cameron Turner works. One of Trask’s first moves as senior litigation counsel is to indict 60 individuals on drug-related charges. But trouble is already brewing within the Kansas City Mafia. Readers know that “Little Dom” Silvestri and his goons the Gonzalez brothers have whacked John Porcello, convinced that he was a rat. Not only was that an unsanctioned hit, but the trio also killed John’s wife, Margie, who was the sister of the local don, Anthony Minelli. Complicating matters are Little Dom’s defiance of mob policy by pushing heroin and an unknown shooter later assassinating the Gonzalezes. Meanwhile, Trask, as expected, has made it to trial with only one of the 60 indictments. But the fallout of Little Dom’s actions ultimately generates evidence that the attorney may be able to use against the Mafia. And the blatant threat of someone firing two slugs into his house isn’t enough to dissuade the resolved Trask. The recurring protagonist has already tackled Herculean tasks, such as a political assassination and Islamic terrorists, in five crime dramas. So while mobsters are no more menacing than past villains, Rainer’s (Death Votes Last, 2017, etc.) change of scenery gives the character a breath of fresh air. Furthermore, the author, as in preceding novels, excels at fully developing a bevy of characters for this first installment of The Kansas City Files. The bad guys in this tale, including Little Dom’s mob-tied father, Big Dom, are just as enthralling as the virtuous players, particularly Trask’s wife, Lynn. The story thrives on the attorney’s legal fisticuffs, relayed via dialogue-laden scenes. Secondary plotlines nevertheless shine, from one of Trask and Lynn’s beloved dogs facing a serious medical condition to the protagonist identifying a potential drug courier during a flight.
The persistently entertaining lawyer leads a superb batch of characters and subplots.
Pub Date: March 13, 2019
Page count: 456pp
Publisher: Gatekeeper Press
Review Posted Online: April 30, 2019
In Rainer’s (A Winter of Wolves, 2016, etc.) fifth thriller featuring federal prosecutor Jeff Trask, a U.S. senator’s suspicious death may very well be a political assassination.
Trask knows the man on the medical examiner’s table in Washington, D.C. He’s an old friend, Sherwin Graves, now a Republican U.S. senator for Georgia, who died when his car ran off the road. There was a bottle of Rohypnol pills in his pocket, which could indicate that he’d been suicidal. His prints are on the bottle, too—but the fact that someone had recently wiped it with a solvent is enough for Trask to suspect murder. A political motive is a possibility: with the U.S. Senate currently split down the middle, one fewer Republican would give the Democrats an edge. Trask, working with Detective Dixon Carter and others, ties two more deaths to the senator before bringing charges against those that he believes to be responsible. At trial, though, Trask faces his share of snags, such as having his boss, Bradley Mantee, who has no courtroom experience, as his second chair. Also, someone’s trying to ensure that a key witness doesn’t make it to the stand, which puts Trask, as a potential obstacle, in peril. Although the protagonist, a “former military guy,” has spent preceding books largely engaged in action scenes, this story places him firmly back in the courtroom. It’s a welcome return, as he shines during jury selection (what he calls “juror elimination”) or while dealing with a judge tossing pertinent evidence. The bad guys are corrupt but still human; the senator’s death, for example, stems from a plan that’s rife with blunders. There are a few other notable supporting characters, including Trask’s FBI analyst wife, Lynn, but the mystery plot remains the true focus. Along the way, Rainer adds charming touches, such as plot-relevant tunes: the Rolling Stones’ 1966 song “Paint it Black” is on the radio at the morgue, and a cynical Trask gets Aerosmith’s 2000 song “Jaded” in his head.
A rousing, standout series entry.
Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2017
Page count: 372pp
Publisher: Gatekeeper Press
Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2017
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018
This latest entry in the Jeff Trask thriller series finds the federal prosecutor chasing a killer who targets police officers.
Trask, senior litigation counsel for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C., is known for his investigative work. When homicide Detective Dixon Carter calls the attorney to a murder scene at the Lincoln Memorial, Trask witnesses the aftermath of Officer Jackie Turner’s brutal death. Subsequent murder victims are cops as well, leading Trask to surmise racially motivated crimes against police, though Turner’s missing gun initially links just two killings. Fearing a “race war,” Trask chooses as his assistant Valerie Fuentes, a competent lawyer but also a levelheaded black woman, to sit at the prosecutor’s table for a probable racially driven trial. The sole lead on the murders, however, is surveillance video showing Turner’s killer, whose only notable physical trait is his colossal size. The murders unfortunately continue, including someone Trask knows, while the attorney, Carter, and others wind up in a blistering gunfight with armed assailants that not everyone comes out of alive. This attack produces an injured baddie with possible answers to the assassinations that now seem to be political as much as racial. Trask, reassigned to the Joint Terrorism Task Force, searches for the culprit spearheading the murders and unearths a bigger, deadlier plan. The recurring protagonist has gradually become more a man of action than one of legal arguments, and by this fourth series installment, he’s rarely in the courtroom. Readers won’t mind, though, especially by the riveting final act, which delivers plenty of action. There’s an early reveal of bad guys and, essentially, a motive, but each new murder is generally a surprise. Rainer (Death’s White Horses, 2014, etc.) handles the race issue with prudence: Trask says his piece regarding, for example, the Black Lives Matter movement, but Fuentes counters with her own opinion. It gets perhaps a bit excessive when Trask and others have to attend a diversity seminar, with the attorney reiterating his stance when the tale’s already made it abundantly clear. On the upside, plenty of back story on the villains makes them both intriguing and intimidating.
The lawyer-hero remains, as always, resolute and razor sharp, even when using his gun more than his legal brain.
Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2016
Page count: 264pp
Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2016
Rainer’s third thriller featuring Jeff Trask (Horns of the Devil, 2013, etc.) pits the D.C. attorney against drug dealers.
When the daughter of U.S. Sen. Hugh Heidelberg, a Texas oil tycoon, dies of a heroin overdose, Sen. Sherwin Graves of Georgia requests that the case be assigned to Trask, a man he’s worked with before. Trask’s assignment: to find the people who supplied the girl with the drugs. The attorney’s team, which includes an FBI task force, uncovers similar deaths among prostitutes in the D.C. area, but the investigation soon stalls due to a lack of evidence. This changes when Trask attends a conference in Texas and meets fellow attendee Luis Aguilar, a major in the Mexican marines. Aguilar and his men, in the heart of the Mexican cartel wars, have been trying to put a stop to the Los Zetas gang, whose members have been massacring civilians and police alike. The major has an inside man providing intel, which Aguilar passes along to Trask. Authorities on both sides of the border must work together to stop further drug transportation and prevent further loss of life. This installment is less of a legal thriller than previous entries, as Trask spends most of the story in the field rather than in the courtroom, but it still focuses on strategy over action. Indeed, it describes its action scenes primarily after the fact, as when a character updates Aguilar on the cartel’s raids. Trask remains a perplexing, colorful figure; he speaks his mind and is unapologetic when things don’t go as planned. But even he can’t outshine the versatile supporting cast, which includes Frank Aurrichio, an enigmatic “stockbroker” on the Zetas’ payroll; Detective Tim Wisniewski and Officer Randi Rhodes, who pursue a budding romance; vice cop Gordon “Hammer” Hamilton; and Trask’s wife, Lynn, an FBI analyst. Trask does get his time in the legal limelight when a couple of baddies go to trial, but the investigation thrives mainly on the team’s collective effort.
An invigorating thriller with an engaging protagonist surrounded by equally worthy characters.
Pub Date: March 18, 2014
Page count: 314pp
Review Posted Online: May 29, 2014
Federal prosecutor Jeff Trask returns (Capital Kill, 2012) to work on a case involving murdered Salvadoran gang members.
“This one’s going to be weird,” says detective Dixon Carter after the headless body of the El Salvador ambassador’s son is found near the Salvadoran embassy in Washington, D.C. The FBI suspects gang activity: The son was apparently part of the gang Barrio 18 and killed by members of rival MS-13. But Trask, the assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, questions the gangs’ involvement—particularly when subsequent murders resemble highly professional hits. Soon, several lawyers are marked for death by the same hit men—including Trask himself. The author’s second legal thriller keeps the questions coming: It opens with a murder, quickly introduces a mysterious man with an eye patch and an itchy trigger finger, and drops suspicion on an obvious suspect early on. The novel maintains a steady pace, but the plot is nearly buried under a hodgepodge of murders and attempted murders. (In an essential, helpful scene prior to the final act, Trask runs down every incident, along with every possible motive or modus operandi.) Trask is an engaging lead character: His extraordinary intelligence and eidetic memory are the same reasons he sometimes has trouble concentrating, “floats” into memories or plays songs in his head. Rainer also turns the spotlight on other, equally gripping characters: Carter, tormented by the death of his partner, shuns sleep; FBI Special Agent Michael Crawford, affectionately dubbed “Puddin’,” starts a relationship with a woman who’s a potential source for the feds, and even Nikki and Boo, the dogs Trask adopts, are given personalities all their own.
A well-paced mystery featuring an entertainingly complicated protagonist, supported by a robust cast.
Pub Date: Dec. 7, 2012
Page count: 264pp
Review Posted Online: Feb. 21, 2013
Lawyer Jeff Trask is just settling into his new job as an Assistant U.S. Attorney when he becomes embroiled in what seems at first to be a simple murder case, but quickly evolves into a high-stakes international case that could break an already-strapped legal system.
Trask is a rookie U.S Attorney who believes in “the system” and all who participate in it. However, his first case ends up challenging his notion of how to do his job and who to trust. Fans of the legal-thriller genre will recognize the usual suspects: the unlikely cop duo, the wise supervisor and even the insider bad guy. Still, the stock characters are well developed, and the elements are assembled so seamlessly that the story feels fresh. Rainer’s attention to setting also shines through. The streets of Washington, D.C., come alive; those who have lived or worked in the nation’s capital will recognize Rainer’s cunning use of seedy locales to give the action in the book a realistic tone. Perhaps too much time is spent setting up all the major players in this story, so impatient readers will need to resist the urge to flip forward and go directly to the action. Trask, an engaging and relatable main character, frequently finds himself questioning those closest to him as he works to find out who is behind the heinous murders plaguing D.C. Despite being exceedingly intelligent, he comes across as an everyman. Refreshingly, the legal jargon is kept to a minimum, so the reader can focus on the mystery at hand. But the story drags where romance is concerned: Trask’s relationship with Lynn Preston feels forced because it’s developed too quickly. The two meet early in the story, yet although their relationship takes some twists and turns, it rarely feels real, as opposed to the authentic locations and crime scenes. Fortunately, the narrative spends more time with the investigation, giving readers ample opportunity to connect the dots while second guessing nearly everyone’s motivations.
Despite its straightforward formula, the book’s intense action, realistic tone and memorable characters will keep readers engrossed in this popcorn thriller with a superb payoff.
Pub Date: March 31, 2012
Page count: 332pp
Review Posted Online: June 8, 2012
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