When a handsome stranger walks into Joss Cole's one-woman law office on a sleepy island in Puget Sound and slaps down a hefty retainer to incorporate a fledgling electronics business, the burned-out ex-public defender has a hunch things aren't exactly as they seem. And when Dean Belden, this strange new client, comes back a few days later with a federal grand jury subpoena he swears he can't explain, she still doesn't tie it into the bizarre illness suffered by her other major clients, a group of commercial fishermen. Then Belden skips out on the feds and dies before her eyes in the fiery explosion of his float plane. Or does he? Within hours there are two attempts on Joss's life--clearly someone thinks she knows more than she's telling. Later, a nuclear fission expert shows up on the island tracking two missing tactical nuclear devices stolen from a Siberian storage facility, and the Geiger counter starts ticking. When Joss's fishermen start dying of what is clearly radioactive poisoning, the outlines of Belden's shadowy past get filled out in a tense thriller as topical as today's headlines. Steve Martini ties it all together with a fast-paced, well-plotted story of homegrown militia groups set up by America's enemies. He tosses in a hint of romance--just enough to show off Joss's vulnerable side without slowing down the action. Martini fans will swallow this one whole, while those who haven't discovered him yet can catch up with his several other thrillers on the paperback backlist, including Compelling Evidence
, Prime Witness
, and The Judge
. --Jane Adams
From Publishers Weekly
A militia group in the Pacific Northwest becomes the world's newest nuclear power in this by-the-numbers thriller by the author of The List and The Judge. Lawyer Jocelyn "Joss" Cole sees a big retainer when she's hired by Dean Belden to handle his company's incorporation filings. But after Belden gets a federal subpoena, Joss sees him die in a fiery seaplane explosion. Now she's the only visible link to Belden's company (which was on the receiving end of two decaying nuclear weapons smuggled into the U.S. out of Russia), and that brings her to the attention of arms inspector Gideon van Ry, of the Institute Against Mass Destruction. After the feds determine that the militia has possession of the weapons, Gideon and Joss join the race to try to avert nuclear disaster. Of course, there are complications: the militia group is being fronted by a foreign power in order to circumvent U.S. nuclear retaliation policy, and the President is in CYA (cover-your-ass) overdrive because his party accepted a campaign contribution from the chief Russian culprit. But even with a SEAL assault on the militia stronghold, double crosses galore and an ingenious ending, the book offers too few surprises, too little suspense and too little emotional involvement. The characters have no inner life, and the plotting is sketchy from the start, when it's explained that dummies were used to cover up for the two missing nukes?dummies that conveniently drop off the weapons count while there's still time to foil the bad guys. The few crucial coincidences stick out like red flags because Martini makes more of them than he makes of the people around them.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.