One-note debut thriller purporting to be a study in evil.
Pony-tailed Chicago arms-trafficker Alex Gunderson is the head of the fanatical anti-government group called Socialist Amerikan Reconstruction Army—SARA for short, in honor of his adored pregnant wife. His longtime nemesis is 39-year-old Jack Donovan, special agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Jack’s estranged 15-year-old daughter Jessie, staying with him for the first time since the divorce, makes it quite clear that she resents him for never being around while she was growing up. When Gunderson stages a blowout heist at the Northland First & Trust bank, Donovan is there to foil it. Sara, a major player in the stickup despite her big belly (she’s as much a sociopath as her husband), is gravely wounded during the subsequent car chase, leaving Gunderson bent on avenging himself on Donovan. While Sara lies in a coma in a hospital, Gunderson kidnaps Jessie and buries her alive—but she’ll stay that way, he tells Donovan, only as long as the oxygen tanks last. The rest of the story unfolds as a cat-and-mouse game between two desperate men. Donovan arrests oily ex-con Bobby Nemo, witnessed taking part in Gunderson’s bank robbery, then releases him in hopes of following Bobby to his leader. With Jessie buried and barely breathing, Donovan runs a nerve-wracking race against time to save his daughter and prove his fatherly love, aided by girlfriend and ATF colleague Rachel, formerly a battered wife. (Browne’s characterizations run to guys-and-dolls clichés.) The personal vendetta begins to take its toll on both hero and villain, while the reader remains unmoved and unenlightened.
Gutter-mouthed characters and graphic violence—the usual.