In the third entry in Safflind’s (Shadowmaster II: Dancing Through the Night, 2012) mystery-thriller series, a killer utilizing alien technology targets congressmen with ties to a government-funded space program.
When a congressman gets a letter opener to his eye, another member of Congress fears he may be next. Barry Sandler of Investigative Services, Inc. (ISI), a counterespionage group, investigates a NASA project that’s using radio waves to make extraterrestrial contact. There’s hope that advanced technology could be decrypted, but someone may have already intercepted a cosmic transmission—and would rather keep it a secret. However, the sci-fi here takes a backseat to what is essentially a murder mystery, and an admirable one at that. Suspects are legion, including a former Drug Enforcement Administration agent with a violent past. Barry, who acts as narrator, swipes from the initial crime scene a piece of blue cloth seemingly made of foreign material, and later, he’s pursued and shot at while in his Corvette. His limitations only heighten the suspense: His apparent attention-deficit issues help keep readers in the dark, particularly when his mind wanders during interviews, and as a “poorly controlled empath,” he continually senses malice but can’t pinpoint the source. Like the previous book in the series, this one has well-rounded characters who are full of personality, especially the other two ISI members, Dr. Adrian Kahler, a former psychologist who can extract information by putting people in a pseudo-hypnotic state, and a 7-foot-1-inch ex–Navy SEAL named Stanley Egor. There’s also NASA scientist Dr. Joanna Dembrowski, whose relationship with Stanley years ago—there’s still a spark—adds a poignant touch to a chilling storyline. Safflind packs his novel with action, made all the more exhilarating by a killer with an uncanny knack for breezing past the most rigid security. Elsewhere, good-natured humor keeps things light, as when lanky Stanley easily blends in at the Renaissance Festival, courtesy of troubadours on stilts.
Another stellar book in the series, thanks to a taut mystery and the applause-worthy return of solid characters.