In Carson’s debut thriller, terrorists behind recent airplane crashes make their next target a San Francisco lawyer whose class-action suit may be exposing too much about their operations.
It’s Jack McManus’ second uncle Joe Flaherty who gets the former Justice Department deputy attorney general involved in a trio of plane crashes. National Transportation Safety Board investigators designate pilot error as the cause for every crash, but Joe refuses to accept that his pilot son, Angus, who’d flown the first doomed flight, is responsible. Jack, now in private practice, joins the probe to clear Angus’ reputation. But the safety board soon finds a pattern: the navigational systems for the aircrafts were feeding inaccurate information to the autopilots. Internet service provider SyriaNet is linked to heavy data traffic minutes before each crash. So Jack files a civil lawsuit, on behalf of Joe and the victims’ families, against SyriaNet. Russian oligarch Ringo Rosselier, alias Hyacinth, meanwhile, is spearheading the attacks, working with the Muslim Brotherhood and computer genius Ahmed Munuza. Hyacinth’s plan entails convincing U.S. citizens that an American political group is taking down the planes, but Jack’s suit has Hyacinth more than a bit perturbed. Once Jack and Justice Department Deputy Attorney General Ernie Aftergood start looking at SyriaNet’s head—Munuza—chances are good that a trail will lead back to Hyacinth, who may feel he needs someone to take care of Jack. This short novel is a quick read, with brief chapters and rapid-fire sequences, including Jack questioning witnesses on the stand. The protagonist is sympathetic, a widower who lost his wife, Mary, in a shooting at Berkeley. And Carson putting Jack in peril, as well as his kids, John and Maria, bolsters suspense. This happens a little late in the story, but Hyacinth, whom Carson identifies early, remains an unmistakable menace throughout. Story details are visually persuasive and sometimes spark olfactory senses, too: safety board investigator Frank Kobe is hit with odors at a wreckage site, including scorched rubber fuel cells, fabric, and human flesh.
A winsome protagonist who can pass for an action hero even in a courtroom.