Meltdown by Susan Mills Wilson


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In this intense thriller, a woman becomes a person of interest when cops link her friend to a mass murder in North Carolina.

An Independence Day celebration turns tragic when dishonorably discharged Army sniper Jared Bolten repeatedly fires rounds into a crowd. Federal agents identify Bolten from a boastful letter he leaves at the scene, but it’s a possible second shooter that gets local detective Chris Lagoni on the case. During the shooting spree, witnesses spotted one-armed Sam Briggs near Col. Gerald Mahoney, dead from a .38-caliber bullet. Briggs’ lost cellphone call leads Chris to Megan Moore, Briggs’ pal/neighbor, who insists that the former soldier, burdened with post-traumatic stress disorder, has no ties to Bolten. She likewise belittles Bolten when reporters question her. Megan doesn’t want cops hurting her friend, but she may have to worry about herself, once a still-free Bolten hears what she’s said about him to the media. Wilson (Her Lying Eyes, 2014, etc.) emphasizes suspense, with a perspective from detestable killer Bolten, and a touch of romance between the two leads. The story generates a great deal of tension throughout, most of it stemming from Chris. The detective, for example, hates working with the FBI (particularly Special Agent Hank Calhoun), may resent partner Nick Pulaski for Nick’s upcoming promotion to sergeant, and remains constantly vexed by largely uncooperative Megan. More insight into Megan and Briggs’ relationship would have benefited the story. It’s a bit confusing that Megan goes out of her way to help a man whom she admits once tried to sexually assault her. Nevertheless, the mutual but restrained attraction between Chris and Megan becomes a treat, and their arguments often come across as bickering. A highlight: Chris acknowledges that he’s fantasizing about the annoying Megan—with duct tape over her mouth. Bolten remains an unquestionably ever-present menace, especially once the plot delves into his past and previous transgressions. And when Megan suddenly vanishes, it’s unclear to cops (and readers) whether she’s snuck away of her own volition or has been abducted by Bolten. Wilson, for good measure, inserts a twist at the end that’s both startling and darkly humorous.

Staunch characters and an unmistakable threat from a sniper make for a stirring page-turner.

Pub Date: May 27th, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-9911691-2-2
Page count: 220pp
Publisher: Code 3 Publications
Program: Kirkus Indie
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