Russell Andrews, in his new novel, "Midas," succeeds at an almost impossible task. He uses the old "conspiracy theory" and "corruption in high places" formula and actually makes it fresh and compelling. The protagonist is Justin (Jay) Westwood, a cop in East End Harbor, Long Island. When Jay's boss, police chief Jimmy Leggett, is killed in what appears to be a terrorist bombing of a local restaurant, the mayor appoints Jay to take Jimmy's place.
Shortly after the bombing, a small plane crashes in East End Harbor. Jay decides to investigate, but the pilot's body is quickly whisked away. When Jay questions the authorities, he is stymied at every turn. Being a good cop and a curious individual, Jay calls in favors from some friends of his, and he begins to put together the pieces of a mind-boggling conspiracy. As witnesses are killed off one by one, Jay has a choice. Should he play it safe and back off, or should he keep pressing for answers, even if doing so might cost him his life?
"Midas" is a timely thriller that deals with issues in the news: escalating oil prices, terrorism and the government's response to it, and the abuse of political power for personal gain. Jay Westwood is an appealing, albeit flawed hero with his share of inner demons. He is grieving over the tragic loss of his wife and child, and, more often than he'd like to admit, he anesthetizes himself with pot and booze in order to get to sleep. Still, he has a core of inner strength and integrity, as well as a passion for justice; he is stubbornly unwilling to let important questions go unanswered. When he is warned to stop investigating, Jay redoubles his efforts to get at the truth.
Andrews has created a fascinating and varied cast of characters. Bruno Pecozzi is an oversized hitman for the mob who, for some reason, is rather fond of the police chief. A sexy cop named Regina Bokkenheuser joins the East End Harbor police force as Jay's assistant and she soon becomes indispensable, both professionally and personally. Other memorable characters are Chuck Billings, an obsessive bomb expert who never takes a crime scene at face value, Hubbell Schrader, a vicious FBI agent, and Theresa Cooke, the jittery and terrified widow of the mysterious dead pilot.
"Midas" is action-packed and fast-moving. Andrews has woven a plot that is complex but comprehensible. As Jay slowly sifts through dozens of clues and puts together the disparate elements of his case, he eventually realizes that he is up against people who can crush him instantly. There is a particularly harrowing and well-written sequence in which the author describes Jay's incarceration under subhuman conditions. The dialogue is sharp and realistic, the book has an internal logic that works throughout, and the novel concludes with some nifty surprises. "Midas" is a suspenseful and engrossing story that effortlessly sweeps the reader along from beginning to end.