Horn follows his expert, formulaic legal-suspense debut (In Her Defense, 2000) with a big-picture Washington thriller juiced within an inch of its vastly entertaining life.
Philip Barkley’s career with the Justice Department is in the toilet, his little girl has died, and his wife has left him for a presidential hopeful. His animus against Sen. Warren Young, his ex-wife Constance’s soaring hubby, makes him the perfectly plausible person to oversee the investigation into the disappearance of Young’s aide Martin Green, since who would imagine Philip would ever hide any of Young’s dirty linen? Unfortunately for the bigwigs who put him on Green’s trail, Philip’s got nothing left to lose—and that makes him dangerously unpredictable and independent when the inquiry he’s partnering with beautiful, ambitious FBI agent Blair Turner links Green to rumors of security breaches and espionage payoffs. When the Youngs, who’ve strenuously maintained Green’s innocence, do an about-face and throw him to the dogs just in time for his body to be discovered, his suicide seems equally pat to Philip. Cutting himself loose from Justice and the case, he launches a freelance investigation that will take him to New York to Arizona to Florida, back in time to another suspicious suicide in 1955, and across the seas to a monstrous plot that goes back even further. There’ll be scene after scene of deliciously deft political maneuvering and backstabbing as the highly visible principals plot to spin each new development as favorably as possible no matter who they have to toss overboard—before Philip allies himself with a retired New York cop to follow the twisty trail to the utterly unsurprising perps.
The first third, with its cast of devious Beltway types lining up for the chance to plant their feet in each others’ posteriors, is the best. Even after Horn settles into a more familiar conspiracy-adventure mode, though, he provides all the thrills you’d expect from a superior beach-blanket read.