In Lubitz’s (Breaking Free, 2011) thriller, a woman’s trial for murder puts numerous people in danger when it threatens to expose a covert government assassination.
Wilhelm Kronig, the former CIA deputy director, is determined to keep quiet about a buried 1969 experiment for a potent hypnotic drug. But 9/11 changes his mind. He tells the agency how to recover the supposedly destroyed formula and suggests using it for a black op to assassinate Osama bin Laden. Recently, however, participants from said experiment have killed their families and themselves on the day of their 60th birthdays. This doesn’t bode well for Alana Shannon, who shot hubby Steve in self-defense but can’t explain why he went gunning for her. She and an old flame, Environmental Protection Agency attorney Ryan Butler, know a little about the drug due to their involvement in a 1986 incident, which the CIA covered up. But building a legal defense based on that classified information is something the CIA won’t allow—even if it means making sure the witnesses don’t make it to trial. As the story progresses, Lubitz’s rapid-paced novel maintains suspense by sprinkling information like colors dabbled on the canvas of a slowly forming portrait. Much of the info is imparted by characters who, like Ryan, are reluctant or afraid to reveal everything at one time, so scenes are comprised largely of mere dialogue exchanges rather than action. Yet this doesn’t hold up the novel in the least, thanks to Lubitz’s intelligent writing and the story’s fresh, contemporary villains. Physical assaults or threats, for example, simply aren’t necessary when a well-spoken CIA agent can tell Ryan how easily the agency could frame him for treason. There’s likewise an ever present but veiled threat: computers or evidence go missing, while those people relevant to the trial either disappear or meet unfortunate accidents. This is the second book to feature Ryan and Alana, and Lubitz drops enough hints surrounding the 1986 event—in which Ryan killed a man to save Alana—to pique interest for his prior novel without spoiling or regurgitating the story. The coda goes on for a bit too long, but there’s an exhaustive wrap-up that includes elaborating on the birthday homicides and the ongoing bin Laden operation.
Smart and sleek as the secrets slowly spill out.