In this law enforcement procedural much in the vein of William J. Caunitz and Bill Pronzini, two FBI agents are assigned to protect a congressman who’s getting threatening letters.
Healy’s taut debut novel launches immediately into the action: FBI agents Alex Toles (a female) and Brian Fallon are assigned to investigate anonymous threatening letters being sent to New York “golden boy” Congressman Christopher O’Brien. When they get to New Rochelle, Fallon will pose as a Secret Service addition to the congressman’s staff, while Toles will act as a PR assistant to O’Brien’s strong-willed ex-wife, Cassidy, an English teacher, and thereby be in a good position to watch over both Cassidy and her and O’Brien’s 6-year-old son, Dylan. A sexual and romantic attraction sparks between idealistic Cassidy and love ’em–and–leave ’em Toles—fairly standard for the genre, except for the lesbian bent. The novel’s matter-of-fact approach to that point will exasperate some readers even as others might appreciate how candid it is. Both Toles and O’Brien have ties to the president; the congressman is “point person on several key pieces of legislation,” and the agent served under the president years ago when they were both stationed in Iraq. The central drama of the plot is well-handled, as it gradually becomes apparent that there are higher stakes at play than a relatively simple case of an obsessed stalker. But the writing can sometimes fall flat: Toles “was tall and muscular but still feminine in a way that was almost indescribable,” and she “had a presence that Cassidy could not describe.” More importantly, some of the technical details of the plot aren’t convincing, particularly since Toles pays more attention to Cassidy than she does to her assignment. The complex depictions of both Toles’ and Cassidy’s sexualities and personalities are refreshing, however, and the book’s climactic action scenes, though predictable, are well-paced.
Though bumpy at times, this welcome addition to the crime-fiction genre features a refreshingly new type of heroine.