KILL ZONE by Jim Silver


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More misses than hits in Silver's second novel of an avenging police sniper whose quest to kill his father's murderers is threatened when he's caught in legal crossfire. The joys of the insurance industry and right-wing cant, two obsessions that hamstrung Silver's first effort (Assumption of Risk, 1996), also bring down this more accomplished tale just when it begins to take off. During the closing days of the Viet Nam War, a weary rifle platoon frags its commanding officer, disguises the killing as a Vier Cong ambush, and escapes unpunished. Some years later, Army sniper Aaron Longbaugh uses his almost superhuman skills to murder his father's killers, who have become, thanks to age and repressed guilt, so repugnantly decrepit that they almost don't deserve a flawless execution. Silver's writing soars as Aaron, a camouflaged avenger moving soundlessly through picture-postcard American woodland, blows away his unwitting victims with an almost loving grace, covering his tracks expertly. But Aaron runs into trouble--and Silver's story bogs down--when Aaron's doing his day job as a police sniper. After he shoots Monnell Bennett, a well-armed, murderously crazed car-jacking fiend who had taken an entire shopping mall hostage, Aaron and the Westport, Ohio, police department are slapped with a preposterous wrongful death suit by the scheming, cravenly hypocritical former ACLU lawyer Julia Chandler Disare. Vanessa Liu Tau, a Vietnamese American claims adjuster, gets involved because her company holds the policy on the cops. During a tediously detailed investigation of Aaron's background, Vanessa finds discrepancies suggesting that this tall, handsome, quietly brooding, and conveniently unmarried police sharpshooter, with whom she is rapidly falling in love, might just be a serial murderer. Silver's story here drops dead in its tracks. Good action scenes, but little else: a badly aimed blast of right-wing wrong-headedness.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1999
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster