Conspiracy, murder and dirty politics head the list of chores for private eye Thomas Black, back on the job again after a ten-year hiatus.
With four weeks to go in Washington’s senatorial race, popular incumbent Jane Sheffield maintains a comfortable lead over sleazy challenger James Maddox—she’s a shoo-in, the smart money figures. So how to explain the aura of confidence that seems to permeate the Maddox camp? wonders Thomas Black, though perhaps not as hard or as often as he should have done, he’ll later acknowledge. Black is working security for Maddox, a man he doesn’t much like who once did a favor for him when they were young cops together. His beloved wife Kathy hates the setup. Putting a thriving law practice on hold, she’s enlisted in the Sheffield campaign with the kind of passionate partisanship that’s generated by noble causes and scurrilous attackers. When a famously reliable airplane plunges into Cape Disappointment with the senator and Kathy aboard, everyone in the Maddox campaign goes into overdrive to make Thomas believe it was an accident.
When the plotting’s not predictable, it’s implausible. Emerson, whose firefighting novels (Primal Threat, 2008, etc.) brim with crackling energy and an insider’s authority, misfires here.