Kirkus Reviews QR Code
TORCH DAY by John Windsor


A Searing New Thriller

by John Windsor

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-9981310-2-3
Publisher: CT Press

Two FBI agents go undercover to infiltrate a group of domestic terrorists planning an attack on Washington, D.C., in Windsor’s debut thriller.

The California hijacking of a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives truck nearly ruins the undercover FBI operation of agents Harry Harper and Ellen King. The missing ATF vehicle, which was full of weapons, quickly becomes their top priority. Their boss, Jim Morton, gives them an assignment that calls on Ellen’s skills as a “computer wiz,” as a flood of internet bulletin-board posts seems to add up to a call to arms for antigovernment extremists. Then the FBI director is shot, and the deputy director is killed in a bombing. Meanwhile, hacker Jeff Barnett, when he’s not hiding his online activity from his parole officer, is trying to convince a weapons dealer, George Pilkin (aka “the Commander”), to partner with him to help bring the government down. Harry and Ellen, posing as father and daughter, manage to infiltrate the Commander’s group in Lake Tahoe, but rogues in the FBI threaten their investigation by launching an unsuccessful raid without warning. The Commander’s specific target isn’t initially clear, but the code name of the strike, “Torch Day,” suggests something explosive. Harry, however, has a more immediate concern when someone blows his cover. Windsor gets his novel off to a rollicking start as Ellen improvises to help undercover Harry deal with Vietnamese gangsters. The devoted partners’ relationship is always professional, without a hint of romance. There’s also plenty of dialogue, which helps to make the action scenes concise and efficient; the best of them feature Ellen, who can inflict significant damage with a flashlight. The solid, packed plot, in addition to the imminent attack, includes a villain who may recognize one of the undercover agents; a blackmail scheme; and potential trouble from Harry’s ex-boss, who swore vengeance after the agent reported his corruption. A few bad guys, particularly Barnett, are so well-developed that they’re almost as sympathetic as the protagonists.

A speedily paced actioner that keeps its heroes—and readers—on their toes.