A taut, swiftly paced thriller in which a presumed terrorist bomber turns out to be a cagey serial killer.
Screenwriter Frost (Twin Peaks, The X-Files) makes an assured debut, working familiar terrain (LA, hard-bitten cops, psychopaths) and coming up with a fresh take that mercifully weighs in at little over 300 pages—publishers, please note! In what looks like the start of a series (the cagey and unnerving villain remains footloose at fadeout), Frost works with LA homicide detective Alex Delillo, tough, thorough, and troubled. The latter condition springs largely from Delillo’s turbulent relationship with her teenaged daughter Lacy, and therein begins the plot. A contender for Rose Bowl Queen, Lacy disrupts a final judging session with a raucous protest against environmental pollution. Before Alex can deal with the uproar, she’s got to deal with the murder of a florist. That investigation sends her to a house wired with a sophisticated explosive that detonates, knocking Delillo’s partner out of the chase. Now she pairs with Dr. Dylan Harrison, whose keen knowledge of explosives leads him to suggest a terrorist may have targeted the Rose Bowl parade. Then, just when it seems the narrative will become Black Sunday with a ho-hum 9/11 spin, Frost works a twist: new evidence suggests the culprit is not a terrorist but a serial killer, who ups the suspense quotient by kidnapping Lacy. This turn puts Delillo on the high wire, balancing her need to solve the case and keep her daughter alive. The killer’s demands draw the lieutenant into some scenes a latter-day Hitchcock would love to film, most notably the finale in which the madman forces Delillo to don a jacket loaded with explosives he may detonate at the famed New Year’s Day parade.
Frost proves that even in the crowded noir field, there’s still room for another canny plotter.