In Phillips’ debut thriller, a man falsely accused of murder is forced to seek justice by tracking down those who framed him.
Retired cop Jack Dublin should have been a hero after he saved a girl who was being raped. But he (justifiably) shot and killed one of the assailants, the son of Sen. Rothschild. Jack’s fear of retaliation from the senator seems valid when a surveillance gig from ex-FBI agent Bob Lewis turns out to be a setup: The man Jack was watching is murdered with Jack’s stolen revolver. As police search for evidence against Jack, he and attorney Marnie Bloom investigate on their own, hoping to find answers by finding Bob. The author sets the foundation for a suspenseful novel by quickly defining the villains: It’s clear almost immediately that Bob isn’t on the up and up, since he’s planning on selling weapons and classified intel to a group of Middle Eastern terrorists and is also working with the contemptible Rothschild. Unfortunately, Jack doesn’t get many chances to display his skills as a cop or an investigator, managing to evade death or assassination attempts by dumb luck. But the story is wrought with tension, as there’s distrust between nearly everyone: Bob works his own angle with the terrorists, which the senator already suspects, and brings along extra men and guns when it’s time to exchange money for goods; Marnie is concerned about Jack’s reliance on cop-buddy Billy for information; and even the terrorists believe that they have a traitor (possibly a spy) in their midst. There’s very little revealed about Jack’s much-talked-about and estranged father, who Jack believes is responsible for his mother’s death in an automobile accident years earlier. But the ending, which practically guarantees a sequel, teases enough to let readers know there’s a lot for Jack to learn about his father. Phillips rounds out the story with some solid action, including Jack defending himself against his new cellmate, and suitable albeit somewhat predictable romance —Jack notices Marnie’s “curvaceous body” before anything else.
Jack’s not the most memorable protagonist, but if his future books are as sturdy as this one, his fan base will grow.