Atkins’s fifth thriller focuses on a killer who comes on like Hannibal Lecter, only less worldly, less cultivated and a lot more ambitious.
When he was four years old, Richard Glash’s father killed his adulterous mother. Soon after, Glash tried to scalp a neighborhood girl and was sent away for the first of several prison terms that occupy him for the next 40 years. If clinical psychiatrist Barrett Conyors had her way, he’d be behind bars for the rest of his life. But his attorney, Carla Phelps, is exploiting a new wrinkle in the justice system to petition for his release to a less restrictive environment, and on the way there, he escapes all restrictions in true Lecter fashion. Within moments he’s grabbed a pair of wildly unlikely hostages and led the police, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security on a desperate chase to find him before he can execute a series of audacious homicides on behalf of three other imprisoned murderers. Despite some clunky exposition, the chase takes off with irresistible momentum till halfway through, when a change in hostages indicates a shifting pattern in Glash’s violence and a dramatic increase in its scale.
Though Atkins (The Prodigy, 2007, etc.) is more successful making you worry about the fate of those first two hostages than about Glash’s diabolical threat to millions of New Yorkers, nobody who starts this clever, maximum-velocity nail-biter will leave it unfinished.