Deaver’s latest nail-biter features a blank-faced hero from a shadowy federal agency whose job is to protect menaced innocents from kidnappers and killers who don’t want them to be protected.
The bad news is that Henry Loving, the ruthless freelance “lifter” who specializes in using physical torture to extract information from targets who know too much, wasn’t killed in Rhode Island two years ago; he’s very much alive and headed for the home of D.C. Metro police detective Ryan Kessler. The good news is that Corte, the Strategic Protection Department officer assigned to protect Kessler and his family, now has a shot at revenge against Loving, who tortured and murdered his mentor Abe Fallow six years ago. Corte’s first attempt to protect his charges—Ryan Kessler, his daughter Amanda, his second wife Joanne and her flaky sister Maree—by moving them to a safe house is undermined by strong opinions from the Kesslers and the first of many attacks by Loving. Taking advantage of what he’s learned about the lifter from the attack, Corte, an obsessive game-player, shifts his strategy, trying to identify Loving’s client by figuring out what Kessler could know that would make him so dangerous. But Kessler insists that his current cases are routine, and all the while that Corte’s struggling to put the pieces together, Loving is learning more about his strategies and reactions. As each combatant seeks an edge over the other, the game between them becomes more and more wildly twisted, with so many embedded subplots, threats and distractions that you’ll welcome Corte’s canned profundity (“People will do anything to anybody—if the edge is right”) if only because it provides moments of relief from the otherwise breakneck action.
Fans of Deaver’s fiendishly clever suspensers (The Burning Wire, 2010, etc.) won’t be surprised by the nonstop deceptions, reversals, shocks and surprises, but this time they’re even more varied than usual, and, given the characters’ backgrounds, a lot more plausible. The result is his most successful thriller in years.