In Fields’ (Twin River II, 2014) latest thriller, security agent Wesley Palladin settles down and criminal forces prepare to further exploit innocent lives.
It’s 1980 in rural Pennsylvania where the Juniata and the Little Juniata rivers flow. On the Calvin property, in Polecat Hollow, pornographers Luther Cicconi and Max Wright keep high school teens Heather Wainwright and Alice Byrd prisoner in Winnebagos for later filming. Though wild pigs protect the property, the group hopes for backup muscle from Philadelphia mobster Don Scavone. Elsewhere in Polecat Hollow, high school sophomore Matt Henry has hired the security firm Have Weapons Will Travel for his father’s bank (see Twin River II), but Wesley Palladin confronts evil wherever he finds it and is more than willing to step in. Cicconi knows that the formidable Palladin—and his battle-ready friend, Vietnam veteran Gene Brooks—threatens his interests. Meanwhile, with Matt’s father supposedly on vacation, Palladin has moved into the Henrys’ guesthouse with Jane Romano, who’s hiding from her mobster husband, Caesar. To help Jane’s son Cody fit in, Matt tells him about the One Thousand Steps mountain trail that leads to the Virgin Heart lovers’ hideaway. There, couples can bless their future together. Yet for others, like the pregnant Becky, who’s stalked by the insane Abel Towers, the One Thousand Steps can mean doom. In the third outing to Twin River, Fields re-emphasizes the area’s signature eeriness with lines like, “Branches dropped low and pierced naked fingers through the mist.” Series motifs recur, including references to Catcher in the Rye and the traumas seen during the Vietnam War. Amid wandering plotlines, the author often inserts scenes of scantily clad girls rescued by vigilante gunfire, and fans of raw 1970s narratives (Deliverance and Straw Dogs) will find much to cheer. Occasionally, the prose offers humor (one gangster says, “I’ll kill you until it hurts”) and life lessons; Palladin tells Cody, “If everything’s given to you, you’ll be a spoiled teenager the rest of your life.” The finale brings brief closure while setting up the next installment.
Tends to meander but delivers flashes of violence that will satisfy action fans.