William Morrow, 2006 (2006)
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Reviewed by Tim Davis
n the years since the infamous 9/11 attacks upon the United States, a long line of writers with good intentions (with the help of market-sensitive publishers) have flooded American bookstores and the literary marketplace with all sorts of post-9/11 fiction and nonfiction. Some of these offerings have been excellent; others have been embarrassingly awful. I'll neither exalt nor embarrass anyone by citing examples from either end of that spectrum. Instead, I'll talk now only about Will Staeger's contribution to the topical inundation,
, which falls somewhere that is clearly well above the median range - which is fortunate for him, for his publisher, and for his readers.
hen the action in
begins, someone with a mysterious past and a well-disguised connection to some very treacherous people is apparently living the American dream in a faded blue-collar subdivision, surrounded by orange groves in south Florida, slightly more than fifty miles from the Gulf coast but only moments away from oblivion. This enigmatic individual is in the painstaking process of combining ammonium nitrate, diesel fuel, electrical components, and a vial or two of a dangerous infectious agent, whereupon he (either intentionally or accidentally?) blows up his SUV, his house, his neighborhood, and himself. And, in the aftermath, all hell is on the verge of breaking loose in south Florida, and that danger may spread quickly to the rest of the United States.
hortly after the explosion, Julie Laramie of the Central Intelligence Agency, much to her surprise, is dispatched on a secret mission to the same south Florida community (or, more correctly, to its ghostly remains, a place where most of the residents have died of a mysterious viral infection). Laramie has a special, super-sensitive assignment and a critical, 72-hour challenge: Find out what happened, determine who was responsible, uncover any terrorist connections, and discover and prevent whatever is likely to happen next.
eanwhile, far away in the otherwise tranquil beauty of the British Virgin Islands, a fellow who seems to be an expatriate American known simply as Cooper has found himself involved in a rather sticky situation: A prominent BVI government official with questionable ethics has obtained a large shipment of confiscated artifacts from Central America that is worth many millions of dollars; this same government official needs the resourceful Cooper's assistance in finding an off-island buyer for the questionably obtained native-American contraband; and suddenly people connected with the shipment, seizure, and sale of the extremely valuable collection are beginning to turn up as dead bodies, and Cooper is becoming worried and agitated. And that is a dangerous condition for Cooper - and for anyone who gets in his way.
hen, quicker than you can say '
anti-terrorism, bio-terrorists, and Homeland Security,
' Laramie and Cooper - because of their previous professional and personal relationship (which began in Staeger's
) - find themselves working (and playing) together once again. In a mind-boggling series of apparent coincidences, we discover that Laramie's desperate challenge and Cooper's illicit problems are related. Cooper, of course, because of his '
blistered, cut, broken, and bruised
' prior employment with the CIA becomes the perfect teammate for Laramie. Soon they find themselves in the proverbial race against time to protect the United States from the latest Public Enemy #1, an out-of-the-country bio-terrorist who seeks nothing less than the total destruction of every single American.
illed to overflowing with the kind of big-screen action that is as potent as a cocktail shaker full of Cuban mojitos (one of Cooper's favorites), Will Staeger's
is a deftly drawn, 21st century portrait of good old fashioned good guys versus bad guys. The characters are tough and quirky, the dialogue is hard-edged and engaging, and the plotting is cinematic and professional. Clearly, Staeger knows how to write an exciting thriller, '
a rip-roaring adrenaline rush.
' As a television and film executive whose debut novel
was a critical and popular success, Staeger has, it seems, scored another near-bull's eye hit with
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