In Barrett’s (Breach of Power, 2013, etc.) latest thriller, a CIA operative becomes the unwitting protector of a man in Witness Security who’s targeted by a myriad of groups.
Gregg Kaplan’s plan to stay off the grid in Little Rock, Arkansas, doesn’t last long. The CIA agent helps stop a trio of thugs gunning for an old man and a law enforcement officer at a restaurant. Mortally wounded, the U.S. marshal asks Kaplan to protect the old man: Tony Napoli (an alias) in WitSec. As Kaplan and Tony race to a safe site, they’re pursued by unknown but undoubtedly armed men; Valkyrie, a notorious assassin; and Senior Inspector Pete Moss, a marshal called back to Arkansas from his recent Chicago transfer. But no matter how many times the two men switch vehicles, someone, somehow, seems to find them. Kaplan is determined to keep Tony—and himself—alive long enough to get some answers. Barrett’s briskly paced novel dives into the action and tackles exposition only when Kaplan and Tony are on the run. Even then, the narrative retains a high level of suspense by initially obscuring a few details. Tony, for instance, has certainly mingled with unsavory types, but that doesn’t explain what incriminating info he may be hoarding, who specifically hired Valkyrie, or how baddies persistently manage to track the men in an interstate pursuit. The book’s first half is its best, as Kaplan and Tony face all types of obstacles, including the leery WitSec witness trying to run off on his own and rednecks foolish enough to harass Kaplan when he’s having breakfast. Moss eventually catches up and, knowing nothing beyond Kaplan’s name, has to decide whether or not he can trust him. A later scene that sees Kaplan traveling out of the country feels too much like an offshoot; it’s a Kaplan-centric subplot that’s most effective if readers have read one of Barrett’s preceding novels in which the CIA operative appears. The ending, however, rounds out the solid story with some reveals, a mole or two, and a nice twist.
A long, exhilarating chase gloriously riddled with bullets and intrigue.