What starts off as a List of Adrian Messenger retread ends up as a helter-skelter race against terrorists and antiterrorists alike in the third and best of Black’s overscaled, overheated thrillers.
Since Conrad Voort works sex crimes for the NYPD, he never would have gotten wind of Meechum Keefe’s list if Meechum hadn’t been an old friend of his. Soon after the old friend asks him to gather information about the names of five people across the country, Voort is shaken by the news that three of them—right-wing organizer Alan Clark, food researcher Lester Levy, and furniture-chain–owner Chuck Farber—have died in apparently unexceptionable accidents. And his apprehension turns to alarm when he learns that Meechum was killed in a hotel fire only hours after passing on the list. Where did he get those five names from, and what do they have in common that put them at such risk? Running down leads on the remaining two candidates for prematurely fatal accidents—elusive cop-hater Frank Greene and beautiful tropical-disease specialist Dr. Jill Towne—Voort is detoured by his attraction for Dr. Towne, whose instantaneous hostility toward the cop who wants to protect her life has all the earmarks of foreplay. Readers who slog through the portentous flashbacks detailing Voort’s mournful background (his cousin Matt’s cancer, his ex-lover Camilla’s abortion) and his antagonists’ motivation (Vietnam, rogue operations, full-blown hatred of diverse governmental agencies) will be rewarded with a smartly paced series of twists, a constant widening of the canvas—though at the expense of characters who are tossed out the window once they’ve moved the plot along to the next surprise—and a slam-bang ending.
If Black doesn’t exactly shine as a stylist, or Voort (Irresistible, 2000, etc.) as detective, lover, or avenger, their greased-lightning adventures will keep you guessing and turning pages long into the night.