In the author’s debut thriller, a former FBI agent and counterterrorism specialist receives intel about a dirty bomb making its way to the United States.
Disillusioned Luke Chamberlin was made a scapegoat in his last FBI case. Now retired, he’s clearing his head with a five-month hike when an old Russian contact sends him a message about a possible terrorist attack: A young jihadist named Mahmoud is transporting a radioactive bomb from Pakistan. Luke teams up with police detectives, a forest ranger and a former Navy SEAL he just met to intercept the bomb before it can be detonated on American soil. Macalaster delivers a refreshingly uncomplicated thriller plot, providing a nice contrast to her complex characters. She provides each of the players with truly meticulous back stories. For example, readers learn that Luke’s Chippewa grandfather taught him how to hunt and survive in the woods and that his friend, ex-KGB agent Gennady Zukov, arrested him back in the 1990s; they also find out that Mahmoud, whose parents disapprove of his radical beliefs, was unable to say goodbye to his beloved younger brother. Macalaster intriguingly paints her characters in shades of gray; for example, Luke’s apparent apathy about his future career strains his relationship with his wife, and a man joins the jihad because his son was killed during a U.S. drone attack. Although the author keeps the terrorist plot in the forefront, with constant updates on Mahmoud’s movements, she also adequately covers Luke’s trek on the Pacific Crest Trail, from its luscious landscapes (“dark, dense lakes and flower-flushed meadows”) to the people he meets along the way. A helpful map shows Luke’s California-to-Washington-state trail and marks each stopping point.
A fine thriller elevated by its well-developed, believable characters.