In Williams’ gritty debut thriller, the lives of drug dealers, organized criminals, political revolutionaries and marketing executives intertwine in spectacular fashion.
In the novel’s opening, the Eighth Precinct police department in the fictional city of Salento is making security preparations for a parade to honor billionaire Russian Pyotr Ptushko. Ptushko successfully smuggled American soldiers out of a dangerous region in South Central Asia, yet his motives are dubious. At the same time, several grow houses operated by ruthless marijuana magnate Otis M. Gaverill are pilfered by a mysterious team of seven men who act with stealth and military precision. Det. Sgt. Sal Mitchell and his partner Eddie “Sandman” Sandovan are the lead investigators in the fallout of the ensuing encounters between the factions. In an adrenalin-fueled subplot, Mitchell’s girlfriend, Mya Laing, a high-level marketing executive at a prestigious advertising firm, is tasked with creating a brilliant yet inexpensive word-of-mouth campaign for a designer jean label. Mya and her team develop an intricate alternate-reality game to garner attention for the brand—a tactic that’s at the forefront of contemporary advertising strategy. This subplot provides entertaining respite from the graphic violence and language in the main storyline, yet readers may wish the two narratives intersect earlier and more completely than they do. Williams also offsets his explicit depictions with well-placed humor that only occasionally leans toward the prosaic. While this may distract some readers, the overall effect, especially in combination with the bright, lively dialogue, is refreshing. There is a well-articulated juxtaposition between the honor and restraint of the military team and the repulsive bloodlust of Otis’ group. Williams’ main characters are engaging, but, with the exception of Otis, they fail to reveal flaws or make mistakes, an omission that challenges believability. Williams leaves unanswered questions and more than hints at a sequel (a sample chapter of his next book is included). Devotees of the genre may conclude that he has provided enough to entice them back into his vivid universe.
An uneven but enjoyable debut that should appeal to faithful thriller aficionados.