A freelance soldier of fortune signs on with the FBI to catch an escaped convict, a Marine-trained sniper who’s picked up where he left off five years ago, in Cross’ slam-bang debut.
Ironically, Caleb Wardell isn’t even the target of the escape. Russian mobster Vitali Korakovski has his eye on the prisoner who’s being transported along with him, Clarence Mitchell, who’s been preparing to roll over on Korakovski. The resulting carnage, however, leaves Wardell the last man standing, and he promptly high-tails it out of Chicago to resume doing what he’s already done 19 times. The FBI’s Chicago Special Agent in Charge Walter Donaldson, who doesn’t want news of the escape to reach the media (yeah, right), reaches out to Carter Blake, the on-again, off-again narrator who assures us in the opening sentence that that’s not his real name. Blake’s unlikely success in predicting that Wardell will head to Fort Dodge, Iowa, and Lincoln, Nebraska, where he duly executes two more victims, earns him the trust of FBI agent Elaine Banner, who despite (or because of) her ambition, has been something of an outlier among bigger Feebs like Donaldson, veteran Dave Edwards and Steve Castle, head of the task force charged with bringing in Wardell. None of this matters, because it’s obvious from the beginning that even though Blake is a much less impressive figure than the truly scary Wardell, he’s the only one tough and wily enough to have a prayer against him.
Cross provides a gratifyingly high body count, ruthlessly efficient action sequences and all the other thrills you’d expect of the superior popcorn movie you can expect his first novel to spawn, right down to a nifty extra twist in the tail.