Years after surviving illness and tragedy, a former fixer for the Mafia becomes a target of the Russian mob in Rothman’s (Dispocalypse, 2016, etc.) thriller.
Levi Yoder gets devastating news: he has stage 4 pancreatic cancer and won’t live much longer, even with treatment. Then he makes contact with a strange, golden crosslike object that someone anonymously sent his wife, Mary, and his cancer disappears. Unfortunately, Mary dies in a car accident soon thereafter, so a despondent Levi decides to travels the world. For more than a decade, he lives in various countries, including Japan, where he studies martial arts, before finally returning to the Lancaster, Pennsylvania, farm where he spent the first 18 years of his life with his Amish family. At the same time, CIA agent Madison Lewis, while monitoring Russian phone lines, overhears a conversation that sounds like it’s referring to a planned killing on U.S. soil. She also believes that the Russians are linked to the disappearance of some American nuclear bombs decades ago. Then an assassin ends up murdering two of Levi’s friends, and so Levi becomes determined to track him down. He meets a man dressed as a Buddhist monk named Amar Van, who says that Levi possesses special gifts other than fighting prowess, including the ability to heal faster than normal. These skills may prove necessary, as he and Madison face a powerful and lethal villain. Rothman constructs dynamic characters in this methodically paced novel, devoting copious pages to Levi’s globe-trekking adventure. The author reveals Madison’s pre-CIA life as a Navy diver, and Levi’s back story is likewise engrossing: he was once a fixer, working in the “gray-area of the law,” most often for his Mafia-connected pals. There are subtle hints that Levi’s and Madison’s lives will intersect over the course of the novel, but when they inevitably do, the ensuing romance feels a bit rushed. Although fisticuffs are on full display in the action scenes, the protagonist’s other abilities remain largely ambiguous. Nevertheless, it’s abundantly clear that Levi is still learning; he apparently has an eidetic memory, for example, which he’s only recently acknowledged. Perhaps these skills, and Levi and Madison’s romance, will be further expanded upon in a sequel.
A first-rate introduction to energetic characters, with potential for future developments.