FBI Special Agent Patrick Bowers has been investigating a series of arsons when the latest strike hits a research facility at a U.S. naval base. With his own criminology research being turned against him and one of the world’s most deadly devices missing, Bowers is caught up in a race against time to stop an international assassin before it’s too late.
I won’t get into the plot; it’s pretty much the above except with lots of symbolic rubbish thrown in to make this book feel weightier and more serious than the mediocre populist fiction that it is.
We’ve got all the tropes: the family member Patrick has a difficult relationship with (in this case his teenage stepdaughter), the criminal who doesn’t brush away spiders that land and crawl on him in his warehouse (get it?? he’s EEEEEVILL), the criminal mastermind who offers a lowlife the choice of walking through two doors (yes they are actual doors, I’m not messing with you guys) titled “Freedom” or “Pain” and the lowlife chooses “Pain” because he’s TWISTED kids, the repetitive, pseudo-menacing references to a grand master plot without any coherent criminal activities being described…Oh and let’s not forget the random migrant storyline, because what transforms a book into a “real” crime novel is some local, urban flavor so for Pinocchio to be a real boy you need to include a shoutout to the California setting.
It’s all so terribly cliched and imitative of other, somewhat better crime novels of the past 50 years. I appreciate that Steven James was trying – but if psychological darkness and the sense of menace and adrenaline contingent upon wide-ranging, shadowy criminal plots aren’t your strengths, for heaven’s sake stick to a more traditional crime-followed-by-investigation plot, and keep it low concept. Many male crime writers don’t seem to realize that you don’t need to have the government and/or the fate of the world involved in every plot.