The clock is ticking for Carol Starkey, tenacious detective - and bomb survivor . . .
John Michael Fowles has a natural talent: he understands explosives. He has a feel for them. It is a talent which he fully expects will take him onto the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list. Along the way he will match himself against the best: the FBI's elite team of bomb technicians and one person in particular - Carol Starkey, Detective in the LAPD Criminal Conspiracy Section.
Starkey died for two minutes and forty seconds after being blown up by one of his bombs, and Fowles dearly wants her dead again. As the FBI attempt to find the link behind a series of bomb explosions that have been designed to kill their technicians, Special Agent Ben Williams stumbles on the bomber's secret: his desire to kill Starkey. If Williams can keep this from Starkey he can set a trap and catch the bomber. A trap that uses Carol Starkey as bait.
Acclaimed for his Elvis Cole mystery series (L.A. Requiem, etc.), Crais deserves further garlands for this stand-alone crime novel. The book features one of the most complex heroines to grace a thriller since Clarice Starling locked eyes with Hannibal Lecter, a deliciously spooky villain in the person of a mad bomber known as Mr. Red, and an aggressively involving plot. Carol Starkey was a rising light in the LAPD Bomb Squad until, two years back, a bomb blew up in her face, maiming her and killing her lover/partner. Now Carol's a bitter, chain-smoking alcoholic with the LAPD's Criminal Conspiracy Section, who gets drawn into a literally explosive conspiracy when a bomb kills Charlie Riggio, one of her former bomb squad colleagues. Forensic evidence points toward the bomb being the work of John Michael Fowles, aka Mr. Red, a coldhearted young bomber-assassin-for-hire and master of disguise. Much of the narrative concerns Carol's pursuit of him, most excitingly on the Net through a secret mad-bombers' site, aided by a saturnine federal (ATF) agent, Jack Pell. Intercut are scenes of Mr. Red's various mad plottings, which take a hairpin turn when he learns that the cops think he killed Riggio: for in fact he didn't. That murder pans out as a copycat crime for personal gain, and now Carol must pursue both Riggio's killer and Mr. Red, who in turn has taken an intimate interest in this bomb-savvy female cop. The subsequent pas de deux between Carol and Mr. Red is too reminiscent of the dance between Starling and Lecter, but otherwise this novel gets high marks for originality, and even higher ones for suspense and, above all, for multidimensional, wounded characters who give all the excitement a rare depth. BOMC and Literary Guild featured selection; Mystery Guild main selection; author tour; film rights sold to Columbia/Tri-Star.