Doulis (The Iron Storm, 2011, etc.) quickly thrusts readers into the far-reaching political tensions and fears of the 1970s in this conspiracy thriller.
Lee Straton, Mona Paterson, and Holly Laver find their friend, professor Josh Andrews, in a grisly state following a break-in and assault at his house. But although Lee could obsess over his own impending breakup with Holly, or the apparent romantic feelings between his sister-in-law Mona and the injured professor, he’s determined to get to the bottom of the strange crime instead. This clearly isn’t just a random rural act of violence, as the police assume, although Lee isn’t certain what his own instincts, honed by military training and a stretch in prison, are telling him. With the country becoming increasingly divided over the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement, and the fallout from the Watergate scandal, it’s no wonder Lee suspects that the professor, with his radical political leanings, might have a target on his back. As paranoia over government surveillance mounts, Straton’s investigation yields more questions, and it begins to seem that the attack on Andrews was just the beginning of something far more sinister. Overall, the novel takes its twists and turns hard and fast. However, Doulis also accentuates the workings of Lee’s keen analytical mind with thorough, highly detailed descriptions, such as this one of a stack of mail: “The mail had come an hour before his nap and he had put it all on the large platter near the door. There was a card from his daughter, Helen; they were back in Paris and would stay there for the last two weeks. Among the other post was an over-size envelope marked ‘insufficient postage.’ ” The sheer volume of such observations can be overwhelming, but the novel’s brisk pace keeps readers guessing about just how important any specific detail will be. This keeps the events moving forward, even in the sections of the book that contain less action. Above all, the story succeeds at creating feelings of uncertainty and anxiety, and the mystery gives Lee plenty of reasons to give in to his own doubts.
A complex tale with plenty to say about a complicated era.