A smart, well-researched thriller, heavy on macho accessories like sniper rifles and sports cars, from Hugo Award–winning, genre-hopping Simmons (The Crook, 1999, etc.).
Like Stephen Hunter in his Bob Lee Swagger novels, Simmons makes good use of the Spartan mystique of the sniper in Dr. Darwin Minor, his loner p.i. update. Dar, something of a throwback hero—smarter, quicker, and tougher than everybody else, but multidimensional enough to make it work—is an ex-Marine who employs his physics degree as an accident-reconstruction specialist for insurance investigators. Cynical and distant for good reason—fired from the National Transportation Safety Board for revealing unpleasant truths about the Challenger disaster, he now reads the Stoics for comfort after the death of his wife and child—Dar is friendly only with his employers, Lawrence and Trudy Stewart, crack husband-and-wife insurance investigators. An attractive and highly competent woman by the name of Sydney Olson, an inspector for the State A.G. and head of an anti–insurance-fraud task force, approaches Dar after someone has tried to kill him. Syd has uncovered a nationwide fraud scheme involving the Russian mob, Mexican illegals, and highly placed American lawyers—and Dar's work has uncovered some recent accidental deaths to be the homicidal handiwork of the ring. He's marked for elimination, which makes him the perfect bait for Syd's trap. Though an initially hesitant romance blossoms, Syd and Dar have professional differences: he doesn't like being watched over by police, nor does he want to be bait. But as hit-men come closer, Dar is forced to play along. Ultimately, he’ll have to use his sniper skills to save both his own life and Syd's, allowing for an outstanding flashback to his last, besieged, days in Vietnam.
Peppered with amusing descriptions of accidents, some reminiscent of urban legends: a solid bit of entertainment, and Dar a likely prospect for a series.