A murder mystery presents a provocative hypothesis that should increase the ranks of conspiracy theorists.
The body of Henry Benson, an assistant editor in a small publishing house, is found on West 32nd Street in New York City, and Homicide Detective Kevin Reilly knows from the brutality of the slaying that this is no ordinary mugging. Benson’s head was smashed by a shovel: “Someone had…delivered world class crushing blows that pureed Henry’s skull between the weapon and the unforgiving concrete.” This was a revenge killing. All Reilly has to do is figure out who could have hated Henry this much. The detective’s search takes him into the back rooms of the publishing world, which sets up an indictment of the industry as a whole that should sound familiar to many aspiring authors. Within days, Reilly rushes out to Los Angeles, where a similar murder has taken place. This time, it is low-budget movie producer Murray Kantwell who has met the business end of a shovel. Cue in a secondary indictment, this one of the film industry. Both cases involve an intriguing manuscript by an unknown author. Reilly continues to follow the trail to San Francisco, where he finds himself the target of a pair of assassins in a supercharged motorcycle chase through the winding streets and dramatic hills of the city. The danger continues when he returns to New York. This is an action-packed thriller with a chilling premise that is more threatening than simple murder. Quinn (The Secrets of a Substitute Teacher, 2014, etc.) occasionally inserts indulgent descriptions (“Los Angeles sprawled like a platter” of low-rise hors d’oeuvres “across the miles between the sea and the surrounding hills”), but he also displays a superb sense of the rhythm of language. He can punctuate his settings with pithy, staccato observations: “The computer was on, the fireplace wasn’t.” Dialogue is usually pleasantly terse, in the familiar style of the detective genre. The few date references in the text indicate a possible 1980s time frame.
A well-paced, satisfying page-turner with an underlying dystopian concept that should keep readers awake at night.