Seminar-level thriller uses the Valerie Plame case as the premise for a dizzying pursuit of an informant.
Soon after gunmen murder Mahata Javadi, a CIA spy attempting to flee Iran, New York Daily News reporter Sandra Whitmore faces a judge in Manhattan at 2 a.m. His honor demands she reveal the source of a story that led to the spy’s murder. Jailed when she refuses, the resourceful reporter blackmails Speaker of the House John Fitzpatrick Mahoney, who is married: Get me out of here, she demands, or I’ll go public about our sordid affair. Mahoney summons fixer Joe DeMarco to figure out how to satisfy judge and reporter. DeMarco succeeds, then learns that the source Whitmore ID’d used a fake name and may be CIA. Besides DeMarco and Mahoney, many others want to know who the real informant was, and several people want him dead. One is Marty Taylor, who faces the collapse of his computer-game empire since the source revealed Marty’s company was selling Tehran equipment to help their missiles strike Israel. Hired gunman Benny Mark goes after the source, for some reason, as does a man known only as the florist, who shadows DeMarco’s every move. Enough characters and back stories for a minor Russian novel set in a maze follow, well into the book’s final third. Then the patient, meticulous reader is rewarded with swift action scenes—a three-way shoot-out in which the shooters aren’t always sure of who’s shooting at them, and Taylor’s nifty escape from thugs driving a car loaded with shovels to dig his grave. As the showdown zeroes in on the main players, a strong point lands when DeMarco’s girlfriend observes that the scores of ploys and maneuvers they’ve outwitted—sometimes by luck and timing—is the real, unseen stuff of the war on terror.
Lawson takes a big step up from House Secrets (2009) with a devilishly intricate, whirlwind tale, wittily told, that delivers a sobering message.