In a twisty new thriller from Holden (The River Sorrow, 1994), cops on both sides of the US/Canadian border pursue a resourceful victim of circumstances through the Pacific Northwest--and into the Alaskan domain of a peaceable but well-armed cult. Persian Gulf vet Joe Curtis is driving to Seattle to return his substance-abusing brother to their Detroit home when his car breaks down in North Dakota. Obliged to hitchhike, he's picked up by a couple named Rick Agullana and Kari Downs. Rick dupes Joe into participating in the holdup of a country store in Idaho, a crime that leaves three men shot to death. Rick and Kari, it develops, had been assigned by the charismatic leader of the Family (an obscure religious order that holds its members in virtual thrall) to assassinate a shifty weapons-supplier who'd cheated the sect and to recover the gold it'd paid for a new shipment of arms. Treasury agent Leeanne Red Feather (who's had the slain dealer under surveillance) and a crew of FBI men are soon on the trail of the fugitive trio. While hardcase Rick is quickly nabbed, he manages to pin the blame for the murders on Joe, who absconds with Kari and the bullion. Despite a transnational dragnet, the two stay one step ahead of law and the US Army (which joins the chase upon learning that the Family's contraband came from its arsenals) in Seattle, Vancouver, Ketchikan, and points deep in the Alaskan wilderness. Joe and Kari, who become lovers along the rugged way, eventually make it to the remote outpost where Father, the commune's guiding light, and his devoted followers plan to make a last stand. Joe's fate is determined in the course of a potentially violent confrontation between the Family and the military/police forces that have surrounded its members far from the watchful eyes of television cameras. An artfully crafted and often thought-provoking entertainment that barrels along at a spirited pace.