A military veteran’s unpleasant encounter with a biker gang prompts an investigation into criminals using a Texas prison for their own gain in this thriller.
Dan Cowell and his common-law wife, Linda Parker, are enjoying a relaxing life in Key West, Florida. At least until Dan tries stopping bikers from tormenting an elderly couple on the highway, ending with both him and Linda beaten and humiliated. Dan’s friend and fellow Navy vet, Carl Blackadar, who does “discreet” government work, suggests tracking down the gang. This would benefit Carl as well. Dan can ID the main assailant, Tank, whose gang Carl has linked to international theft and murder. Dan agrees; later, his eyewitness status is the likely motive for an assassination attempt against the common-law couple. The two men begin in Ecuador while Linda and her ex-journalist pal (and Carl’s girlfriend), Melanie Olson, investigate the matter separately. Mel believes she’s found Tank in a Texas jail, where the women travel under the pretense of writing a magazine article. Something is clearly wrong with the prison: How can Tank be in other countries if he’s locked up, and why doesn’t Linda recognize him? Things escalate when Dan and Carl get word that the two women have disappeared. McHugh’s (Deadlines, 2010, etc.) novel is brimming with action. Scuffles are quick and startling, while realistically varying in outcomes: some of the fights the good guys win; some they lose; and some involve frying pans. Characters have just as much impact, especially the women; Linda, a Moskita from Honduras, proves a formidable opponent against any attacker. The story initially bounces the perspective between the paired-off characters, but as they gradually split apart (for different reasons), the scenes shorten and the pace increases. Nevertheless, the author adeptly depicts the environment; at the prison, the women trek through “corridors that cradle” a dank musk “of male sweat as well as hints of fecal vapor, stale urine and vomit, all laced by a turpentine reek of Pine-Sol.”
Tight action sequences and a high-energy plot that readers should relish.