A veteran homeland-security agent vows justice in the mysterious death of a young auditor investigating the plagued production of a Pentagon fighter jet in this thriller.
Ohio-based cost analyst Ann Redmond, an eager new hire working for the U.S. Department of Defense, is sent to Launch Weapons Systems in California to audit the progress of a $400 billion F-35 Lightning II fighter-jet project. There are concerns that the manufacturer is lagging behind its delivery schedule and will miss an upcoming live weapons test. It seems like a simple assignment, which makes her lurid murder all the more shocking and suspect. Agent Sam Pruett, “in the twilight of his career,” allows himself to become personally involved in the case and is “determined to see it through to its ominous conclusion.” That conclusion, though, will likely be obvious to the reader; the title of the book is a mild spoiler in itself. But by the time Pruett sorts it all out, there are still more than 100 pages to go. Bronsen’s debut is several undeveloped books in one. The focus initially is on the financial dilemma of Jay Forest, a recently fired avionics worker who’s tens of thousands of dollars in debt to a loan shark who figures prominently in the story’s early going, only to unceremoniously disappear mid-book. Then a former colleague, who runs Launch Weapons Systems, hires Jay to get the jet project on track and he’s charged to put a team together. The sections dealing with the fighter jet’s production and the technology behind it are the most credible in the book, and they’ll please tech-heads. Another subplot involves a struggling, family-owned company that resorts to unscrupulous methods to try to wrest the F-35 project from Launch Weapons Systems. The “open-and-shut” murder case, though, doesn’t generate much suspense or reader engagement, and it’s not even clear why Pruett is so invested in this particular case. His antagonistic working relationship with a local police detective (a more impressive sleuth) at first suggests a mismatched-buddy relationship. Fortunately, Bronsen does avoid this cliché, but the dialogue throughout is still trite.
An underdeveloped thriller with a protagonist that could have been fleshed out more.