Penzler Pick, May 2000:
Like many authors with ongoing characters, Robert Crais has taken a break from his famous private eye. After eight novels featuring Elvis Cole and his loyal sidekick Joe Pike, Crais has created Carol Starkey, a bomb squad veteran now doing time as a Detective-2 with LAPD's Criminal Conspiracy Section. Three years have passed since the detonation that killed Carol's partner and lover, but she is still severely scarred both mentally and physically. She can't bear to look in the mirror, and she hasn't been with another man since David Boudreaux left her bed that last morning he went to work. She gets through the day with the help of Tagamet and alcohol.
When a bomb call takes the life of another colleague, Carol begins to investigate a series of explosions that seem to be designed to exterminate bomb technicians. She soon realizes that she's "the one that got away." With the help of an FBI agent whom she loathes professionally for interfering with her job but finds attractive anyway, Carol must track down one of the most frighteningly brilliant killers of the modern age.
This edgy thriller's protagonist is one that the reader at first may have difficulty liking, but she's got a background and history that make her truly three-dimensional. One hopes that Crais, one of the handful of young crime writers capable of writing consistently luminous prose, will continue to give us characters like Carol Starkey to star in his always powerful portraits of modern-day Los Angeles. --Otto Penzler
From Publishers Weekly
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. (May)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.