Federal prosecutor Jeff Trask returns (Capital Kill, 2012) to work on a case involving murdered Salvadoran gang members.
“This one’s going to be weird,” says detective Dixon Carter after the headless body of the El Salvador ambassador’s son is found near the Salvadoran embassy in Washington, D.C. The FBI suspects gang activity: The son was apparently part of the gang Barrio 18 and killed by members of rival MS-13. But Trask, the assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, questions the gangs’ involvement—particularly when subsequent murders resemble highly professional hits. Soon, several lawyers are marked for death by the same hit men—including Trask himself. The author’s second legal thriller keeps the questions coming: It opens with a murder, quickly introduces a mysterious man with an eye patch and an itchy trigger finger, and drops suspicion on an obvious suspect early on. The novel maintains a steady pace, but the plot is nearly buried under a hodgepodge of murders and attempted murders. (In an essential, helpful scene prior to the final act, Trask runs down every incident, along with every possible motive or modus operandi.) Trask is an engaging lead character: His extraordinary intelligence and eidetic memory are the same reasons he sometimes has trouble concentrating, “floats” into memories or plays songs in his head. Rainer also turns the spotlight on other, equally gripping characters: Carter, tormented by the death of his partner, shuns sleep; FBI Special Agent Michael Crawford, affectionately dubbed “Puddin’,” starts a relationship with a woman who’s a potential source for the feds, and even Nikki and Boo, the dogs Trask adopts, are given personalities all their own.
A well-paced mystery featuring an entertainingly complicated protagonist, supported by a robust cast.