A former investigative journalist tries to stop two men, each with vengeance on his mind and access to bombs, in this sequel.
Tina Thomas is shaken by the news of an abortion clinic’s recent bombing a mere 30 minutes from her Chicago suburb. She nearly died in a similar blast five years ago in Arlington, Virginia, during her days of investigative reporting. Tina’s internet search and footwork reveal not only another nearby abortion clinic bombing, but also that the detonation originated in the men’s bathroom in both recent cases. Because that location was the Arlington bomber’s signature, Tina believes he may be out for revenge, as she, attempting to stop him years ago, shot him. But Tina has another equally pressing concern: the “remaining bad guy” from a case she helped the FBI resolve much more recently. Said baddie isn’t behind bars, and Tina suspects he likewise craves vengeance against her as well as her neighborhood chums: Linda, Molly, and Cassandra (aka the Hamlin Park Irregulars). Each member of the group brings a particular skill set, like Molly, an ex-model who worked for the CIA. And joining them is a new neighbor, David John, who’s trained in threat assessments. While trying to locate the FBI-released bad guy, Tina discovers that he has gotten his hands on C4. And finding the Arlington bomber will prove to be extremely complicated. His target isn’t easy to pinpoint, as it could be Tina, additional abortion clinics, or the assassination of a significant political figure.
As in his preceding thriller, Duff (boom-BOOM!, 2017) aptly fuses exhilarating scenes of action and suspense with the more down-to-earth challenges of a stay-at-home mom. Though the Hamlin Park Irregulars stress they’re not superheroes, they’re all exceedingly capable. Linda, for example, with degrees in computer science, accounting, and law, is a former attorney, an exceptional hacker, and an expectant mother. These returning characters are indicative of the consistency between the series’ first two books (less than a week has passed between the stories). The FBI-related case and residual baddie are direct links to the earlier novel. Throughout both installments, Tina has been steadfast in continually potty-training her 2-year-old daughter, Kerry —with only moderate success. As the menaces in this volume are pre-existing (from Tina’s past), tension is established from the beginning and rarely lets up. This is especially true in the latter half, once Tina verifies that someone is watching, tracking, and/or listening to her. Violence, though restrained, also increases and prompts arresting images; one brutal encounter ends with Tina noting “clotted blood on my shorts” and “dried blood under my fingernails.” Nevertheless, there are a couple of notable plot twists that most readers will likely predict, though that doesn’t dampen the inevitable peril in which Tina and others find themselves. Duff weaves a few intriguing themes into the narrative, namely old media vs. new media: Tina scoffs at a reporter who tweets her story and follows up with photographs on Facebook and Instagram.
A superb thriller, thanks to tenacious characters and an unyielding pace.