In Noland’s debut thriller, Ron Steadman is running for re-election as mayor of Centerville, N.M., when a young woman turns up dead outside his campaign headquarters.
Making matters worse, the victim previously flirted with him and had a subsequent public confrontation with Ron’s wife, Val. Now, Val, a medical researcher specializing in stem-cell technology, is the prime suspect in the murder. As the police work on solving the case, Ron and Val try to clear her name while keeping his campaign alive; they wonder if perhaps the dead woman worked for one of Ron’s political opponents. Despite quickly arriving at its tense premise, the book is slow to build interest. There’s a lot of romantic intrigue early on—particularly between Ron, Val and Steve, Val’s charming, younger lab assistant—but those developments don’t go anywhere or tie in with the larger story. Around the midway point, however, things start to pick up when a political assassination occurs, leading back to a Mexican drug cartel; the investigation tracks a professional hit man back and forth across the border. The “author,” B.P. Noland, is a pseudonym for a husband-and-wife writing team with experience in politics and medical research, which inform the satisfying amount of detail provided in the text. The effectiveness of the detail is particularly evident in the book’s realistic, robust view of local politics, presented as a balance of media relations, public policy and ambition. Also well observed are the sections dealing with the attempts of local and federal authorities to interrogate and plea bargain with murder suspects; the specifics don’t skimp on the nitty-gritty of the process. Yet the dialogue is stilted at times, and there are some improbable developments—Steve being allowed to assist in the police investigation, for instance. However, those problems don’t derail the overall narrative.
A generally effective page-turner armed with procedural detail.