In Feiss’ (The Formula, 2011, etc.) new novel, a cadet at the prestigious U.S. Air Force Academy dies under mysterious circumstances.
The Air Force Academy is an institution that takes the best of the best, then beats them down and builds them up until they’re something even better. But not everyone can make it through this grueling test of mental and physical strength. When Nick Argento’s battered body turns up one morning in the snow a few stories below his dormitory window, everyone agrees that he wouldn’t have committed suicide and no one would have murdered him. So how did Argento die? Uncovering that mystery is the job assigned to Zach Fields and Mindy Reynolds, veterans of the nearby El Paso Sheriff’s Department. The academy’s commitment to an ironclad code of honor makes it nearly impossible to get straight answers about Argento from anyone, which is further complicated by the fact that the cadet’s father is an ambitious tea party senator. Thanks to the unpublished memoirs of a cadet from the 1960s, Zach discovers that the honor code has been a source of great controversy for decades, and he’ll have to break through the ranks of cadets and officers to find someone truly honorable, who can finally tell him what happened to Argento. The novel offers a great behind-the-scenes view of the academy, its rituals and training regimen. Unfortunately, a lot of time is spent on less interesting minutiae, such as the workout habits of secondary characters or back stories for ancillary characters like Brig. Gen. Leo Barrows, who doesn’t seem to deserve so much attention. Weaving in the memoirs of a 1960s cadet proves to be an intriguing narrative choice, but its voice and perspective are barely differentiated from the rest of the text, making each section feel less authentic. Though the dialogue can be wooden—characters insist on frequently referring to each other by name midconversation—the chapters in which Zach and Mindy actively engage in trying to solve the mystery of Argento’s death are especially enjoyable. Occasionally, however, a few too many plotlines—multiple romantic interests and a secondary shooting outside the academy, to name just two—slow down the action.
Well-researched but overstuffed.