DETONATION by Burr B. Anderson


Terror at the Panama Canal
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A maritime investigator tries to thwart a sinister plan that entails a bomb sinking either a cargo vessel or a passenger-loaded cruise ship in this thriller.

When Rob Spencer, a cruise line’s director of fleet security, hears of a possible dirty-bomb attack on a ship, he contacts his pal Brick Morgan of Morgan Maritime Investigations. Brick, based in Tacoma, Washington, won’t be slowed down by FBI protocols, and time is a factor, especially since the targeted vessel is unknown. Brick starts with a chemistry teacher who told Rob’s probation-officer brother, Terry, that someone wants to utilize his expertise to build explosives. Only readers know that crime boss Gaston Rizzo is behind the scheme, though the idea belongs to an unidentified client who, along with Rizzo and his associates, could make millions. Brick’s investigation gets him entangled in a murder as well as the attempted blackmail of a California businessman to deliver a secretive package. The feds soon enter the picture, and Brick’s eventually partnered with Special Agent Nicole Cofield. Unfortunately, the baddies have their eyes on Brick, knowing he’s on the case, and more bodies crop up before he and Nicole can even find a bomb. Though some aspects of the mystery are revealed early (for example, the client’s name), Anderson (High Seas Darkness, 2014, etc.) introduces a multitude of vivid characters whose plot significance isn’t immediately known. They’re akin to puzzle pieces waiting to connect; one particular character’s surprise relation to another leads to an unforgettable shock near the end. Parts of the narrative, however, seem inessential. Brick, for example, first investigates a cruise-ship passenger who’s gone overboard in an apparent suicide; it’s an entertaining subplot, but it also delays the main story, which is unrelated. Regardless, once the latter starts, its rapid pace doesn’t waver, with a “tick-tock” refrain stamped at the close of chapters, constant reminders that the bomb deadline is coming up.

Characters shrouded in mystery and a ticking-clock scenario elevate suspense in this stirring crime tale.

Page count: 359pp
Publisher: CreateSpace
Program: Kirkus Indie
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