Pseudonymous Boyd makes a blistering debut with the tale of a disgraced former agent who rescues the FBI from a murderous extortionist.
First the Rubaco Pentad slays a tabloid TV reporter who’d done an exposé of the Bureau, demands $1 million or it will kill an unnamed politician, and executes the FBI agent carrying a dummy package with no money. Then it murders a Utah state senator (also a prominent FBI critic) and this time wants $2 million; the agent and the package—now containing real cash—disappear en route to the drop. When the Pentad kills a defense lawyer (also known for his anti-Bureau stance), Assistant Director Don Kaulcrick brings in Steve Vail, fired five years ago for refusing to give evidence against an incompetent superior because it would have led to the release of a cop-killer. Presently working as a bricklayer in Chicago, Vail agrees to join forces with the FBI so long as he’s not reinstated and not paid and can have the assistance of new Deputy Assistant Director Kate Bannon. Learning that Vail’s on the case, the Pentad demands that he deliver the third package: a duffel bag containing $3 million. Vail jumps through every hoop and survives every booby trap; the payoff gets delivered, and he gathers some telltale clues that set him on the Pentad’s trail. Deflecting the advances of Bannon and a Los Angeles ADA, he focuses manfully on the case, realizing at length that virtually all the evidence has been planted, “and we’re still being played like a whorehouse piano.” Boyd, identified by his publisher as a former FBI agent, provides the inevitable cat-and-mouse game between Vail and the Pentad’s chief with enough jolts to create a legion of fans for this novel, trumpeted as the start of a series.
Highly formulaic—the Rube Goldberg plot makes Jeffery Deaver’s twisty thrillers seem models of realism—but irresistible red meat for connoisseurs of action thrillers.