MORTAL DECEPTION by Robert Sweeten


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A serial killer, a missing teen, the Hell’s Angels, police corruption, a terrorist plot and another terrorist plot don’t begin to sum up this distended thriller.

When a naked judge is found shot in the head, the double lightning bolt symbol he’s clutching points New York Police Department homicide detectives Chip Tanner and Ray Jankowski toward the Manhattan Hell’s Angels chapter. The Angels are into arms-dealing, meth-trafficking, murder and bashing people with pool cues, and they have their network of covert motorcycle mamas insinuated throughout the city government. They supply villainy aplenty, with some left over for subplots about police officials’ collusion with the Angels and a private eye’s search for a rich girl ensnared in their white slavery racket. But this is no ordinary, edited thriller, so the author throws in yet more subplots about Arab terrorists conspiring to detonate an atom bomb–and perpetually fretting that their thunder will be stolen by a competing cell of American antigovernment zealots conspiring to detonate a dirty bomb. Tying everything together is a maniacal ex-Navy Seal who likes to rape and murder random women when he’s not figuring in each of these subplots. Assisted by supermodel-turned-cop Kate Hollister, Chip and Ray have their hands full, but overstuffed as it is with busy narrative convolutions, the story still feels sluggish and slack. The tacked-on subplots are trotted out haphazardly, without pacing or drama; the teen-in-bondage saga fizzles abruptly, while the jihadists have little to do except brood and chortle over the impending slaughter of infidels. The author ballasts his 668 pages with formulaic thriller elements–aimless banter and quips from the heroes, a lugubrious back story of trauma and alcoholism for Chip, repetitive expository passages, pointless trash talk confrontations–all taken to tiresome lengths. Sweeten isn’t a bad writer–he comes up with some intriguing characters, interesting procedural and gripping action scenes. Unfortunately, like the obese Angels lumbering through the novel, he doesn’t know when to say when.

There’s a diverting action tale somewhere in here–but good luck finding it.

ISBN: 978-1-4196-6658-2
Program: Kirkus Indie
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