To make up for the bungled heist of a priceless artifact, a special police officer agrees to swipe a 15th-century manuscript for a ruthless businessman in this thriller.
Lt. Norman Blalock has accepted a hefty sum to steal a historic item from his place of employment, the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. The theft doesn’t go as planned, resulting in an injured Norman stashing the artifact. Suspecting that his partner-in-crime, Kavitha Netram, attempted a double cross on their side deal, a bedridden Norman’s distrustful, even as his cohort is caring for his Great Dane, Bruno. The two, meanwhile, are certain the Englishman behind the deal, Rupert Whyte, is out of the picture, especially because his powerful boss didn’t get what he paid for. But when Whyte shows up in Washington, Kavitha makes a “peace offering”: the Voynich Manuscript will be on loan to the Folger, a book that trillionaire collector Wolfgang Von Essen desperately wants. Norman enlists his private investigator pal, Luther Kane, to research enigmatic Von Essen while devising a caper to retrieve the manuscript as well as the original artifact. Unfortunately, an Iranian assassin, for a reason back in London, is gunning for Whyte and may target anyone he believes is working with the businessman. Peterson’s (Nativity, 2016, etc.) story drops readers right into the plot, at the tail end of the botched heist. It’s initially baffling though exhilarating (at least one person’s dead before the night’s over), but enlightening specifics on Norman, Kavitha, etc. do slowly emerge. Recurring scenes in the Folger are highly evocative; the author himself works there and hilariously appears as a character to give Norman sound advice. Details, however, are occasionally excessive: Norman explains to Kavitha the card game Tonk in a dry, formal language, akin to instructions. (And Norman’s description of Tonk is nearly identical to the game’s Wikipedia entry.) But there’s plenty more to savor, from romance between Norman and Kavitha to the latter’s possible deceit—and all before the manuscript heist is under way.
A meticulously drawn-out caper that retains suspense even during the planning stage.