In Sylvester’s (The Bernoulli Award, 2009 etc.) latest thriller, Col. Jack Bolden seeks the truth surrounding the mysterious deaths of his wife and closest friend.
When Air Force Col. Jack Bolden flies to D.C. for the retirement party of old friend Gen. “Snootch” Nogrady, he has no idea it’ll be the last time they meet. Snootch, who has leukemia, drops a bomb by revealing that the 25-year-old shooting death of Jack’s wife was no random act—and he knows who did it. Shocked, Jack dazedly returns home to San Francisco. The news that awaits him is equally disturbing: While Jack flew across the country, Snootch inexplicably died during his first chemo treatment. But the narrative takes a surprising turn: Instead of leaping headlong into Jack’s search for his wife’s killer, Sylvester changes gears and reaches back in time to carefully chronicle Jack’s formative years. This section, which comprises about two-thirds of the novel, is actually its best. Jack is introduced as an 8-year-old, intelligent boy with a strong sense of justice. From there, Sylvester leads Jack through unique, poignant situations full of incredible detail, building a strong, nuanced character with engaging tales from Jack’s youth; each remembrance beautifully crafts his back story, endearing him to readers. Those interested in military life will be entertained by tales of Jack and his buddies pushing their way through the U.S. Air Force Academy. Yet with the bulk of the novel focusing on Jack’s youth, the actual conflict in the story—the search for his wife’s killer—seems underdeveloped. Still riveting, the story surrounding the deaths and Jack’s exaction of revenge is resolved in a little over 100 pages and 10 days’ time. The two parts, though linked through characters, seem almost like two separate stories; a more balanced approach between past and present would help the novel shine.
Rich with vivid characters and suspense.