Steve Martini. Trader of Secrets. New York: HarperCollins, 2011.
Martini always makes for a good read; plenty of action and suspense make up for some lack of mystery this time. It's one of those tales with a macho shoot-out that seems to beg movie box office—moving from D.C. to Thailand to Paris to Mexico. And you have to take on faith that space technology can harness scary weapons, interspersed with unsubtle editorial polemics on even scarier government secrets. The book follows after Guardian of Lies and The Rule of Nine with lawyer Paul Madriani still dodging the assassin known as the Mexicutioner, or Muerte Liquida. Although it's a stand-alone novel, by this time Madriani is dragging a lot of expository baggage with him. Martini wisely moves on after this, I'm told.
Jonathan Lewis. Into Darkness. London: Arrow/Random House, 2011.
Here's an offbeat story on the slim side but the well-drawn funky characters make up for it. First you must adapt to the unique jargon and slang of a tightly knit Brit police investigation unit. Hunky detective Ned is obsessed with reenacting a murder scenario. Dog handler Kate is obsessed with a labradoodle. The medical examiner is obsessed with speaking Latin, only one of the comical quirks. Along the way, a learning experience about guide dogs and the world of the blind. More, please.
David Ellis. The Hidden Man. New York: Putnam/Penguin, 2009.
So I found this book in the remainder bin. Exhilarating and searing are two adjectives slightly overdone in publicity blurbs. More like quietly suspenseful, I'd say, but this is an Edgar Award-winning author. Lawyer Jason Kolarich is not exactly a sympathetic character in a devastating moral dilemma brought on by external forces. It's an excellent, original story. The only element I found nit-picky was a wee bit too much repetition of our hero's anguished thoughts. His plight does reflect well on fraternal bonding.
“A reasonable person might inquire as to my fitness to handle Sammy's murder case, under the circumstances, and now I was juggling Pete's problem, too. It probably said something about my mental condition that I was able to make this observation with a cool detachment—an outsider looking in. I had absolutely no business being calm about such things. A man I once called my best friend, my brother for all practical purposes, was facing a life sentence, and my real brother was in quite the pickle himself. I was never one to panic, to let my nerves overtake me, but that was because I refocused that adrenaline to enhance my performance. Now, I wasn't panicking because there wasn't any adrenaline, period.” (123)
Don't be fooled. Panic, he did. Later.
Brent Pilkey. Lethal Rage. Toronto: ECW Press, 2010.
How could I resist? The setting is Toronto's police division 51 where I live. A working police officer (with tattoos), Pilkey knows the job. Crime and apprehension. Although events in the book are fiction, the publication of Lethal Rage was not without controversy from his superiors in the police force. The everyday life of patrol officers might sound boring, but the man has a gift for words and character portrayal. I found his cops more human than Rotenburg's (passim) in their struggles to avoid becoming desensitized, their need to earn and give respect, their cathartic humour. It's not quite Wambaugh, but very promising. Patrolman Jack Warren will return in a projected series. I'm a fan—as long as he doesn't mention all the 911 false alarms on my street!
At a Cherry Beach beer bonfire with colleagues:
“Where else could you go to blow off steam about a job no one understood or tried to understand? Where else could you laugh at the criminals, the botched suicide attempts, the everyday violence? Who else but other cops could appreciate such black humour? If you didn't let loose once in a while, vent the mounting pressure, then you ended up a burnt-out cop who didn't give a shit about anyone or anything.” (185)