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Slick, by-the-numbers thriller from the author of, among others, The Fourth Primer (2002).

Long Island attorney Jack Ruskin starts to crumble after his teenaged daughter Janet is the victim of a serial sex offender. His wife divorces him, his work begins to suffer. Meantime, Janet languishes in a mental institution, and Jack’s visits to her regularly refuel his grief and rage. Then the lawyer prosecuting Janet’s attacker (ferretlike redneck Eugene Tupp) bobbles the case, Tupp goes free, and Jack snaps, turns vigilante, and goes on a cross-country killing spree of serial pedophiles. A passage from Revelations causes him to think of himself as the Fifth Angel, who brings “a vial of pain and death to the throne of Satan.” In a similar vein, FBI agent Amanda Lee loses her faith in the system while tracking a serial pedophile known as Oswald. Despite clumsy interference by local law enforcement, Amanda and her rugged partner Marco track the perp to an abandoned building. Oswald disarms Marco and, as Amanda watches, slits his throat. Amanda shoots Oswald in the face. She takes a leave of absence, mulling her options: return to the bureau or stay at home with husband Parker (hardly the most selfless of spouses) and their two young children. Jack, meanwhile, tries to build a new relationship with the empathetic Beth Phillips. But his secrecy about his murderous sideline keeps her at a distance and ultimately drives her away. While stalking a pedophile in Vermont, Jack catches his target in the middle of a crime; Jack rescues the victim, in the process risking exposure. The two plots converge when Amanda’s first assignment back on the job is the pursuit of Jack.

Green has a great ear for dialogue, writes with admirable economy, and steers clear of grisly elements of plot. But he seems uninterested in the moral dimension; as fast as the story moves, readers will still be ahead of every development.

Pub Date: Feb. 18th, 2003
ISBN: 0-446-53085-9
Page count: 384pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 2002


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