This tour de force by the author of Manhattan Nocturne
is a genre-bending literary thriller that deserves all the pre-publishing buzz it's received. From the prologue, set in the closing days of the Vietnam War, to the denouement 25 years later in the meatpacking district of Manhattan, it crackles with electricity and keeps the reader pinned in place; this is a book that's truly impossible to put down.
Harrison's three protagonists are so well drawn that their individual obsessions rather than his complex plot seem to drive the narrative. Former fighter pilot Charlie Ravich is a wealthy telecommunications CEO desperate to perpetuate his name by any means, including a surrogate mother; his only son is dead and his daughter is infertile. Christina Welles is an Ivy League-educated mathematics whiz who went to prison for her role in a Mafia theft ring. And Rick Bocca, Christina's former lover, is hiding from the mob boss who has arranged Christina's early release to regain the millions he believes she stole from him. Harrison's observations are acute: he can describe the most horrific torture as deftly as he can write a tender love scene. But his ability to weave the separate stories of his main characters together without sacrificing a bit of momentum is truly dazzling; all three of them live in the mind long after the novel's harrowing climax. This is the real "afterburn" of the title, although it may get a second definition if the book makes as rapid an ascent to the top of the bestseller lists as it deserves. --Jane Adams
From Publishers Weekly
Writing like an angel, Harrison in his new thriller (after Manhattan Nocturne) casts human existence as demonic, in a scenario as fierce as any imagined by Goya. The horror begins as American pilot Charlie Ravich is taken prisoner in 1972 in Vietnam, to be rescued by GIs who maim him in the process. Jumping to the present, the narrative focuses on another prisoner, Christina Welles, suffering behind bars in upstate New York for her role in a mob-directed theft ring. Charlie, too, is in pain; though now a wealthy electronics mogul, he's under attack both professionally, by larcenous contractors and a rival firm (like Harrison's Bodies Electric, this is a finance thriller as well as a crime novel), and personally--his wife is exhibiting signs of Alzheimer's, and he mourns the death of his only son. Then there's Rick Bocca, Christina's lover, inadvertently responsible for her imprisonment; he's hiding from the mob on Long Island, good as dead. When the mob, looking for $5 million that Christina stole from them in her final heist, engineers her release in hopes of snatching her to retrieve their loot, Harrison sets in motion a daringly complex tale of chase-and-hunt, of villainy, sacrifice and redemption, that unites these three main figures, and the gangsters who will go to any length--including monstrous torture, detailed by Harrison to the point of sensationalism--to get their money. As smartly orchestrated as the action is, it's Harrison's achingly real characters who empower the novel, as well as his prose: is there a noir novelist alive who can match his wattage? That's not always a virtue, though, as Harrison too often lets rip passages that, though rhapsodic or acutely observant, retard narrative flow. If not always expertly paced, however, the novel astonishes throughout, as much for its moral force as for its storytelling dazzle. 100,000 first printing; author tour; audio rights to Simon & Schuster. (Jan.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.