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Sunday, October 16, 2005

Some Nifty Thrillers

I actually don't like the term thriller to describe a book, but when books don't seem to fit in the "mystery" category, there doesn't seem to be a sensible option for three books I very much enjoyed.

Zero Option by P.T. Deutermann describes massive governmental screw-ups that come close to causing a chemical weapons disaster. Dave Stafford, a Department of Defense Criminal Investigator, has been sent to investigate irregularities at a DMRO (place where old weapons are sent to be destroyed or rendered useless.) He stumbles on a frightening scenario. A cylinder containing "wet-eye" has been sent in error to the DMRO. The manager there, Carson, seeing a way to make a huge pile of money has removed the cylinder from the inventory list and offered it for sale on the black market. "Wet-eye" is a chemical and biological mix that does not kill, but renders blind anyone who comes in contact with it; their eyes melt in a rather horrible manner.

The army can't reveal it has lost a chemical weapon and the FBI we later learn was proposing to buy the item in a sting operation. No one can tell anyone else what is going on. Soon we have interlocking cover-ups and it all gets quite confusing. I suspect, the lack of inter-agency cooperation portrayed by Deutermann probably reflects reality, a truly scary thought. My only complaint with this page-turner is the use of a "psychic" teenager as a plot device, a cheap way and convenient device. Good book, nevertheless.

Blood Work by Michael Connelly, one of my favorite authors, brings back Terry McCaleb, ex-FBI agent who discovers a link between the murders of three individuals. He is brought into the case by the sister of one of the victims. McCaleb has a special interest in finding her killer because her death resulted in a heart becoming available for him; he was the recent recipient of a heart transplant.

Connelly has created a new character for his most recent work, Lincoln Lawyer, which, according to reviews, is first-rate. I'm looking forward to it.

P.T. Deutermann has also written Darkside, an excellent legal mystery. A midshipman at the Naval Academy is found dead, an apparent suicide, having jumped from a six-story window. He was wearing the panties of Julie Markham, a senior about to graduate. Her father, a history professor at the academy hires a sharp criminal lawyer, Liz DeWinter, to defend Julie when the Academy investigators begin to wonder about the connections she might have had with the deceased. Jim Hall, Annapolis security chief, begins a parallel investigation into weird events in the steam tunnels. Soon the investigations converge leading to an unlikely suspect. "Darkside" is the nickname given by plebes to the administration; it's also a metaphor for other goings-on. . .
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