When a scientist from Los Alamos' nuclear weapon Stockpile Stewardship Team endures a nasty divorce, converts to a jihad religion and then takes hostages in the borough of Queens, it should be no surprise that he's radioactive.
That nightmarish scenario opens the new Preston and Child (Gideon's Sword, 2011, etc.) action-adventure. Dr. Gideon Crews, a Los Alamos physicist reluctantly in service to the mysterious Effective Engineering Solutions, is quickly co-opted into the multi-agency investigation attempting to locate the nuclear weapon supposedly built by the rogue scientist. The ESS's shadowy head, Eli Glinn, assigns Crews to work with Stone Fordyce, a cappuccino-swilling FBI agent liaising with NEST, the federal Nuclear Emergency Support Team. The mismatched pair examine the radiation-poisoned stand-off scene, eavesdrop on radio chatter, discover the site where a bomb was apparently assembled and then escape New York City ahead of the nuclear terrorism panic. They head to Santa Fe and Los Alamos, with a side trip to the mountain lair of a Branch Davidian-like cult, a compound from which the two escape after a bizarre fencing duel involving cattle prods and chain saws. They meet an Italian-American iman, face deadly sabotage as they follow another lead, and then things come a cropper for Crews when jihadist rantings and compromising emails are discovered on his computer. Fordyce and the federal alphabet agencies now suspect Crews too is a terrorist. What follows is a cinematic chase around Los Alamos, with movie set pyrotechnics, hidden tunnels under the nuclear laboratory and outlandish mountaintop escapes from dogs and helicopters, with Crews one step ahead of his pursuers while dragging along Alida Blaine, daughter of a bestselling novelist, as hostage turned accomplice. Like the investigators "drowning in false leads, red herrings, and conspiracy theories," the novel is slow to get underway but once Crews is accused, the action zigzags like an out-of-control rocket toward a double-deceptive conclusion.
With sufficient Crews back story to give new readers the low-down, the authors adhere to a winning formula.