The latest thriller from veteran suspense writer Lysaght (The Eye of the Beholder) is a distressing step backward, a hybrid of mismatched genre clichs. His tale of ex-pugilist foster brothers Thomas Boyle, a cop, and Miguel Meza, a hitman, who spring into action when their beloved mentor and surrogate father "Patsy" De Marco is murdered, unsatisfyingly cobbles together political thriller, police procedural and Mafia drama. Although fast-moving and never dull, Lysaght's ungainly narrative also manages to be blunt, unsophisticated and vaguely misogynistic. Almost nothing is left to the reader's imagination; as soon as we are introduced to the novel's chief villain, a supercilious ice-queen assassin named Alicia Kent, we're informed that she is "deeply evil." Kent, a key member of the inanely named Kensington Dining Council (which seems to have nonironically modeled itself after James Bond's old archenemy, S.P.E.C.T.R.E.), is directly responsible for De Marco's death. She kills the old boxing trainer because he's stumbled across a Paterson, N.J., warehouse where the council secreted a cache of deadly sarin nerve gas, with the aid of local mob boss Angelo Bracca. After De Marco's body is found at the bottom of a waterfall, the hot-tempered Boyle and nonchalant Meza team up to avenge his death. Along the way, they exchange good-natured taunts, encounter beautiful naval intelligence officer Stephanie Shane and cause a not inconsiderable amount of property damage. They're also greeted by laughably gratuitous female nudity at every turn (Shane gets most of her clothing torn off in the novel's climactic action sequence), one of many indications that the book has more in common with tacky, exploitative B-movies than with solid suspense fiction.
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Patsy DeMarco is an amateur-boxing legend and a pillar of the community in decaying Paterson, New Jersey, where he operates a gym. When he dies in an apparent car-jacking gone bad, the community mourns, and his two adopted sons want revenge. One son, Migo Meza, is a Mob hit man; the other, Tommy Boyle, is a suspended Paterson detective. When the investigation of Patsy's death is commandeered by assistant U.S. attorney Stephanie Shane, the boys smell something fishy. Shane knows that Patsy had discovered a cache of deadly chemical weapons belonging to a terrorist group known as the Council, whose chief assassin, Alice "the Viper" Turner, was behind the hit on Patsy. Shane and the brothers find themselves faced with taking out the Viper and saving Manhattan from a chemical attack. This is a broad-canvas, high-concept thriller, like so many others, but Lysaght brings his work in ahead of the field with sharp dialogue, machine-gun pacing, and memorable characters--Meza is as scary a "good" guy as you're likely to encounter. A very entertaining read. Wes Lukowsky
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