BLOWN AWAY

FBI agent John Becker, a deadly force in his own right (Bone Deep, 1995, etc.), goes up against the Unabomber. Or a reasonable facsimile thereof, a frustrated chemist who vowed vengeance on New York City when affirmative action robbed him of tenure at City College. Now Jason Cole, calling himself Spring, is threatening to blow up every bridge and tunnel leading out of Manhattan unless he gets a $5 million payoff, and is establishing his bona fides by taking down the Roosevelt Island tramway. Cole's academic background, his Thoreauvian social nostalgia, and his old-fashioned mastery of his craft (Becker notes with admiration that each of his bombs is handmade) are all culled from headlines and manifestos; what Wiltse adds is a portrait of a donnish, painfully vulnerable wimp whose emotional development seems to have been arrested long before his first chemistry course—and a lively, incongruously lightweight plot to buffer the skirmishes between Supercop and Supervillain. Cole has no trouble attracting a slew of unlikely allies and sponsors, from Defone Lee, an enterprising homeboy who goes partners with him in his extortion demand, to Tony Buono, a hit man whom he hires to kill Lee, to Tony's cousin Donny (the Snake) Sabela, who steps in to assassinate Becker and turns out to have his own ideas about how Cole's operation could be run. Becker, already strung out between nursing his convalescent wife and FBI superior Karen Crist and fending off his subordinate Pegeen Haddad, who thinks their night of passion marks the beginning of their life together, snatches the investigation away from his groveling, incompetent boss and runs with it, but he's overshadowed this time by the bomber—a shame, since Cole, for all the nervous laughter his social gaffes provoke, is a lot less compelling, less interesting even, than the agent who dresses him down on the network news. But Becker and Cole and all the rest of them rolled together still can't compete with the real Unabomber, whose bizarre saga establishes a benchmark that far outclasses Wiltse's sturdy fiction.

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 1996

ISBN: 0-399-14208-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be...

BADLANDS

Box takes another break from his highly successful Joe Pickett series (Stone Cold, 2014, etc.) for a stand-alone about a police detective, a developmentally delayed boy, and a package everyone in North Dakota wants to grab.

Cassandra Dewell can’t leave Montana’s Lewis and Clark County fast enough for her new job as chief investigator for Jon Kirkbride, sheriff of Bakken County. She leaves behind no memories worth keeping: her husband is dead, her boss has made no bones about disliking her, and she’s looking forward to new responsibilities and the higher salary underwritten by North Dakota’s sudden oil boom. But Bakken County has its own issues. For one thing, it’s cold—a whole lot colder than the coldest weather Cassie’s ever imagined. For another, the job she turns out to have been hired for—leading an investigation her new boss doesn’t feel he can entrust to his own force—makes her queasy. The biggest problem, though, is one she doesn’t know about until it slaps her in the face. A fatal car accident that was anything but accidental has jarred loose a stash of methamphetamines and cash that’s become the center of a battle between the Sons of Freedom, Bakken County’s traditional drug sellers, and MS-13, the Salvadorian upstarts who are muscling in on their territory. It’s a setup that leaves scant room for law enforcement officers or for Kyle Westergaard, the 12-year-old paperboy damaged since birth by fetal alcohol syndrome, who’s walked away from the wreck with a prize all too many people would kill for.

A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be welcome to return and tie up the gaping loose end Box leaves. The unrelenting cold makes this the perfect beach read.

Pub Date: July 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-58321-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how...

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THE A LIST

A convicted killer’s list of five people he wants dead runs the gamut from the wife he’s already had murdered to franchise heroine Ali Reynolds.

Back in the day, women came from all over to consult Santa Clarita fertility specialist Dr. Edward Gilchrist. Many of them left his care happily pregnant, never dreaming that the father of the babies they carried was none other than the physician himself, who donated his own sperm rather than that of the handsome, athletic, disease-free men pictured in his scrapbook. When Alexandra Munsey’s son, Evan, is laid low by the kidney disease he’s inherited from his biological father and she returns to Gilchrist in search of the donor’s medical records, the roof begins to fall in on him. By the time it’s done falling, he’s serving a life sentence in Folsom Prison for commissioning the death of his wife, Dawn, the former nurse and sometime egg donor who’d turned on him. With nothing left to lose, Gilchrist tattoos himself with the initials of five people he blames for his fall: Dawn; Leo Manuel Aurelio, the hit man he’d hired to dispose of her; Kaitlyn Todd, the nurse/receptionist who took Dawn’s place; Alex Munsey, whose search for records upset his apple cart; and Ali Reynolds, the TV reporter who’d helped put Alex in touch with the dozen other women who formed the Progeny Project because their children looked just like hers. No matter that Ali’s been out of both California and the news business for years; Gilchrist and his enablers know that revenge can’t possibly be served too cold. Wonder how far down that list they’ll get before Ali, aided once more by Frigg, the methodical but loose-cannon AI first introduced in Duel to the Death (2018), turns on them?

Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how little the boundary-challenged AI, who gets into the case more or less inadvertently, differs from your standard human sidekick with issues.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5101-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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