A fresh and entertaining thriller about plots and corruption in places low and high, including—perhaps a first in suspense fiction—the Department of Homeland Security.
A former contractor for the U.S. Navy, Lawson makes an assured debut in what looks like a series opener. He begins where many thrillers end, with an assassination plot against the president. The attempt goes awry when a sniper misses his target, killing a reporter and a Secret Service agent instead. A few days later, a man commits suicide, leaving behind a note confessing to the crime. But, of course, that’s not that. Speaker of the House John Fitzpatrick Mahoney (one of many vivid and amusing characters) tells Joe DeMarco, a lawyer who does odd jobs for the Speaker, that just before the attempted assassination, Alan Banks, the head of Homeland Security, had obtained a note stating that the “inside ring”—the protective circle of Secret Service agents surrounding the president—had been “compromised,” posing a threat to the chief executive. For some reason, Banks kept quiet about the note and now he wants DeMarco to find out what’s afoot at the Secret Service. DeMarco turns up little in Washington (though his probes convey an insider’s feel for D.C. plots and counterplots). In particular, DeMarco believes that the prime suspect, agent Billy Ray Mattis, is innocent—so DeMarco is all the more startled to see a mobster rub Billy out point-blank. DeMarco is left puzzled by the lack of connection among several sources a friend uncovered by obtaining records of Billy’s phone calls to men in Georgia. Off DeMarco goes to Georgia for some nasty encounters with land and swamp critters. The revelations in Dixie uncover a haunting connection to the past.
Tight and engaging story, sharp writing and dialogue that’s good to the last line.