A crafty veteran returns with a deft thriller about a crafty veteran returning to thwart a fiendish terrorist plot.
A spook-power shortage in Washington results in Secret Service Agent Swamp Morgan, of near-legendary status, being called out of retirement at the behest of the still-new Department of Homeland Security. He’s dispatched to check out a probable “firefly”: i.e., a situation with some worrisome aspects to it but that, after further scrutiny, is likely to prove empty of substantive threat. This time, a highly sophisticated plastic-surgery clinic—for the rich, famous, or just plain furtive—has gone up in flames, killing two doctors and two nurses in mid-operation. Unfortunate, even tragic, but an accident, right? Well, maybe, but, meantime, where’s the patient, that mysteriously unidentified person whose appearance was being radically altered? Swamp doesn't have a good answer for that, which—as no one who knows him will be surprised to hear—triggers the ever-lurking bulldog in the man. As his investigation intensifies, more questions surface, and the answers remain either unforthcoming or spurious, almost as if something significant, perhaps something dangerous, were being carefully protected. By now Swamp is convinced that what looks and flickers like a firefly might, in fact, be a gathering firestorm. And yet it's hard to find anyone in the land of acronyms (read: homeland defense establishment) who'll share that view. In suspicious circumstances, a policeman is murdered. Was he getting too close? A nurse, one who could conceivably identify the missing patient, narrowly escapes a similar fate. Is all this coincidental? Or is there a clever, determined terrorist on the loose? What does the phrase “total decapitation” mean, and why can't Swamp Morgan get anyone to be as nervous about it as he is?
Deutermann (Darkside, 2002, etc.) always makes his backgrounds impeccably authentic, but it’s those three-dimensional people in peril who drive his tales.