A disgraced journalist tackles a story his newlywed wife had been covertly researching, involving Russians, spies, and murder at an Alaskan ski resort in this thriller.
It’s been three years since Jake Boxer’s career-ending rant on his news show, Bullseye, arguing that Russians killed soundman Brody White for his audio evidence of a secret intelligence project. Having moved on from the news world and planning to take the LSAT, Jake’s now on his honeymoon in Blind River, Alaska, with former producer and Brody’s fiancee, Claire O’Donnell. Claire, however, now a travel writer, may be working on a big story. Not that she’ll tell her husband anything—Jake’s left to wonder why she disappears for a few hours their first day and later doesn’t answer texts. The following day, Jake spots Claire boarding the ski lift with an unfamiliar snowboarder and grabs a ride a few seats behind them. Shockingly, the steel cable snaps, and skiers, including Jake and Claire, plummet to the ground below. An injured, temporarily wheelchair-bound Jake returns to the hotel alone, only to be surprised by Claire’s iPhone, which she’d used to monitor rooms she’d evidently bugged. Hoping to divine Claire’s subject matter, Jake sifts through theories, from a just-executed man claiming to be a CIA assassin to a Russian artist and her much-desired painting. The convoluted plot, a hotel filled with villains or possibly none at all, is surprisingly focused almost exclusively from Jake’s perspective. Jake, for starters, is definitely likable, earning Claire’s love and support by abandoning his “first wife,” Bullseye. But readers know only what Jake does, so even if he’s merely paranoid, his various conjectures on what’s happening epitomize a dedicated man piecing together a puzzle. The narrative, too, fittingly relays his emotional state: Jake’s hatred of the chairlift is ultimately well-founded, while repeated back spasms make simple tasks arduous experiences. The likelihood of being surrounded by spies and/or killers gives the tale an unnerving edge, but Hosack (Identity, 2012) injects some humor. For example, when concierge and (probable) ally Al asks about the targets of Claire’s extensive eavesdropping, Jake, perhaps prematurely, assures him, “Just the bad guys.”
So many twists it’s practically gyrating, but an undeniably spry and rousing espionage tale.