In her first stand-alone thriller, Stabenow (A Taint in the Blood, 2004, etc.) pits a Coast Guard cutter against a diabolical terrorist ring armed with a dirty bomb.
It begins in a tourist spot in Thailand when a soccer-ball bomb kills 114 people and no one takes credit for the blast. Arlene Harte, journalist and CIA operative who happens to be on the scene, notices an incongruously tranquil pair of Koreans walking through the carnage. She follows them around the world, or at least as far as the limit on her CIA credit card will take her, and watches as the two men board a plane for Moscow, where they visit a notorious Russian arms merchant who soon has an accident. Her boss, Hugh Rincon, receives her report, raises the credit limit on her card and reports the possibility of North Korean terrorism to the director of the CIA, a political appointee concerned mainly with the security in place around his backside. If it’s not al Qaeda, he’s not buying. So Hugh takes personal charge of the investigation, zeroing in on the Bering Sea, where a U.S. Coast Guard cutter is patrolling the Maritime Boundary Line—a ship whose executive officer is Sara Lange, Hugh’s long-distance wife.
An exciting premise and the obligatory arrival of the (nautical) cavalry alternate with calming—some might say dull—exposition of politics and technology.