Hartley’s (Lion’s Gate, 2006, etc.) thriller follows a private eye’s simple job of vetting an affluent man’s potential son-in-law—a task that escalates into a murder mystery and a chance to stop a terrorist attack.
PI Ryan Moar, a former cop in North Dakota, is working a case for Carl Ravenstein, a wealthy businessman whose daughter, Tamara, is engaged to Moe Fouzi. Ryan and his wife/partner, Joanna, check up on Moe and find something strange: He doesn’t seem to have a family background. Things take a deadly turn when someone murders both Carl’s ex-wife, Aimée, and a security consultant who was tailing Moe. The two murders, as well as Moe himself, who vanishes, might have a connection to Habib Kadir, a jihadi who’s planning a terrorist strike in America. And Habib has a penchant for blowing up monuments, with his eye firmly set on a much-beloved monument in neighboring South Dakota. Information in the author’s novel comes hard and fast, often beginning with a person being questioned and then, through dialogue, revealing the reason why Ryan or Joanna is there. This creates a stunning pace, cutting to and from scenes at breakneck speed, allowing for the occasional shock: Readers, for instance, learn only later in the story that Ryan and Jacelyn, Carl’s young, coquettish fiancee, have a history. The investigation gets the short end: It’s largely presented by way of the investigators’ interrogations and the resultant conjecture regarding the guilty party’s identity; but Hartley (and the protagonists) knows what should take precedence, as Ryan and Joanna focus their energy on preventing the attack in a searing action sequence near the end. The PI couple’s past, like most of the book’s exposition, is merely touched upon, but what’s there is riveting: They met when Ryan helped Joanna’s son, Gary, who was accused of murder. Hopefully their story, which also includes the murder of Ryan’s first wife, will be further elucidated in the next book, this being the first in a planned series. If all goes well, the sequel will give up on the somewhat disconcerting hint of romantic interest between stepsiblings Gary and Charlene, Ryan’s daughter.
A gumshoe with a murky past and a country in peril are prime ingredients of this worthy detective story.