A private investigator attempts to infiltrate a blackmail ring, with the assistance of the FBI.
Karl and Riley Anderson, both accountants, stumble on to a blackmail ring at work and immediately notify the FBI. Their discovery is serious enough that the FBI enters them into a witness protection program and whisks them away to an island off the southern coast of Florida. However, the criminal mastermind behind the scheme, Phillip Agatha, aka the “Fat Man,” tracks them down, and only Riley is able to escape. She has reason to believe Agatha might have an accomplice within the FBI, and so she turns to private investigator Jake Travis for help. Jake discovers that the FBI has already been taking a hard look at Agatha; the feds hope he leads them to even bigger criminal quarry. But Agatha has proved elusive and may be responsible for the deaths of two federal agents, and so the FBI is desperate enough to entertain Jake’s unconventional proposal: he will pose as a client for Studio Four-Twenty, Agatha’s blackmail atelier, with help from the feds. The supervising agent candidly shares with Jake the root of his enthusiasm for the questionable plan: “I’ll be succinct. We would rather lose you than a third man. That is why we are so excited, and supportive, of your suggestion.” Jake goes undercover as the contact for an electronics company about to lose a major contract with the Navy, looking for a governmental insider they can compromise and exploit. Author Lane (The Cardinal’s Sin, 2015, etc.) revisits familiar narrative territory with the reprisal of Jake Travis, but the plot crackles with energy and suspense. The pace is breakneck, and Lane skillfully renders the implausible as grippingly real. The style of the prose is essentially updated crime noir (“ ‘Put my name on the bullet,’ she said in a voice as clear as cold water. ‘The Fat Man. Let ’em know it was me—that Karl Anderson’s girl got him’ ”), and Jake is a Miami version of a well-known literary archetype, the hard-boiled detective. Despite the obviously formulaic elements, the writing is crisp and often clever, and Lane endows Travis with more human depth than most protagonists are blessed with in this genre.
A consistently entertaining and self-assured crime thriller.