Coulter (KnockOut, 2009, etc.) delivers the 14th novel in her long-running series of thrillers featuring FBI agents Dillon Savich and Lacey Sherlock, this time introducing two new major characters.
Helmut Blauvelt, a German national, is found murdered on federal land in Connecticut, his fingertips cut off and his face disfigured. It turns out he’s a troubleshooter for the nearby pharmaceutical company Schiffer Hartwin. On the night of the murder, private investigator Erin Pulaski was stealing documents from the Schiffer Hartwin CEO’s own computer, to help prove that the company had been causing an artificial scarcity of an in-demand cancer medication. She didn’t kill Blauvelt, but wants to know who did. And, coincidentally, Pulaski is also the ballet teacher for the daughter of hardworking, widowed FBI agent Bowie Richards, who’s investigating the Blauvelt murder with Coulter regulars Savich and Sherlock. The primary mystery’s drug-company angle seems to be an attempt to tackle a health-care issue for topicality’s sake—giving characters multiple opportunities to talk about pharma wrongdoing. Overall, however, despite attempts to liven things up—including a scene involving an exploding SUV—it’s a fairly standard procedural, with predictable and sometimes rather lifeless dialogue. A second, supernaturally tinged mystery involves a U.S. senator apparently being visited by the ghost of his dead wife, while at the same time seeming to be targeted by assassins—eventually leading to the vice president of the United States ending up in the hospital. Unfortunately, this mystery is shoehorned awkwardly into the action, and at times feels as if it had drifted in from an altogether different novel. That said, the two new characters, Pulaski and Richards, are fine additions, and the sections that focus on them feel the most authentic and are the most entertaining.
A so-so outing, although Coulter’s fans will likely enjoy the new characters.