Intrigue, legal thriller, suspense! There’s something about a crime that on the surface appears unexplainable, that fascinates a large share of the reading public. For most of us, the situations the heroes and heroines of such books find themselves in are far beyond the realities of the everyday world around us. That’s part of the appeal.
The danger, action, and intrigue provide the reader with the pleasure of escaping into an imaginary world filled with challenge, a chance to pit intellectual skills against a formidable foe, take heroic chances, and ultimately win. This type of book has a different focus from that of a mystery in that the reader knows early on who committed the crime. Instead of trying to discover who is guilty, the focus is on the pursuit, the why, the proof of who didn’t commit the crime, and sometimes the prevention of another crime.
Traci Hunter Abramson has been filling this niche of the fiction market for more than a decade. Her experience working for the CIA has given her books strong credibility. Her newest offering, Failsafe, is a prime example. Charlotte and her father are NSA operatives operating a highly secret computer system designed to provide protection and oversight for undercover agents around the world. When the secrecy of their rural hidden post is breached and her father and his assistant gunned down, Charlotte is the only one who can access the system, which leaves agents around the world vulnerable. Using precautions set in place by her father, Charlotte runs for her life and for the security of those American agents. Eventually she resorts to a cross country run on horseback to avoid surveillance cameras.
Jake Bradford is a well-known author who left the family farm to work in New York. When his parents are killed in an accident, he finds himself responsible for his aging grandmother who has Alzheimer’s and for the farm, which complicate his ability to continue his writing career. His life and his plans are drastically altered when he meets a rain-drenched woman in a distant pasture and invites her into his home to dry off, then stay the night, and a short time later to take over the care of his grandmother. He’s unprepared for the emotions and danger she brings with her.
Quantum Deception by Denver Acey is a follow up to the gripping Quantum Breach. A missile launched from the golf course beside the Salt Lake City Airport brings down a commercial plane one night. One of the casualties on that flight is Tanner Stone’s partner. Tanner should have been on the plane too, but cancelled at the last minute when his wife went into premature labor. Tanner, who is a hacker expert, suspects the project he and his partner were working on and their report on Chinese hacking scheduled to be made in Washington D.C. were the motive behind the attack. Derek Cannon is assigned to the investigation which requires cooperation between the FBI and the Secret Service as well as the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative Data Center located near Camp Williams outside the Salt Lake Valley, which is where Tanner works. As one of the few people who can operate the quantum computer and the discoverer of a foreign plan to shut down Wall Street and erase all US financial records, it soon becomes evident he is still a target. He is also the only one who can spearhead a counter cyber attack.
Filled with twists and turns, this cyber suspense tale holds the reader from the first page. The characters are intriguing and diverse. It may not be as politically correct as some might like, but the author has a firm grip on both the political and cyber worlds of today. Acey has spent his entire professional career in the information technology industry and is responsible for thwarting real cybercrime. Though the story is laced with a great deal of technical material, Acey manages to neither talk down to his readers nor lose them with incomprehensible technical jargon
Another long time favorite in this field is Clair M. Poulson, a former sheriff and current Justice Court judge. Most of his books have had a setting in the modern west, but with Murder at Tophouse he jumps to New Zealand for the major portion of the book. Recently divorced Los Angeles Police Officer Mike Denton doesn’t trust his partner. He was nearly killed in a shooting six months ago and he suspects his partner, Cal, was somehow involved. If his suspicions are right, Cal is involved not only with kickbacks, but with smuggling guns into New Zealand.
When he receives a temporary suspension from the force, he decides to follow up on his suspicions with a trip to New Zealand. En-route he meets Skylie Yates, a young New Zealand woman who is facing a difficult time of her own. Someone believes she is the key to the missing money from a large bank robbery. Concerned for her safety, Mike sets aside his own search to protect her. His skills are tested to the limit when the two quests intersect and both of their personal lives become a factor in the investigation.
Treg Julander completes this foursome of suspense writers with the legal thriller, Until Death Do Us Part. He draws on twenty years of practice with law firms in Washington D.C. and Southern California.
Mike Kingston is pushing to become a partner at the elite Washington D.C. law firm where he works. Though he loves his wife and two-year-old daughter, his long hours leave little time for them. Under pressure to settle a case that could make or break his ambitious goal, he begins having nightmares and sleepwalking (which to the reader may appear more humorous or campy than scary). During one nightmare, he nearly strangles his wife. A week or so later he falls asleep in the den and is awakened hours later by his daughter’s cries. After he settles her back to sleep he goes to bed and discovers his wife isn’t breathing. An autopsy confirms she was smothered. He, of course, becomes the prime suspect, and even he is not certain of his innocence. An old friend who also works at the law firm and one of the senior partners takes over his defense. The inept detective assigned to the case turns it into a vendetta when the case is dismissed, partly due to his lazy, incomplete investigation.
Mike becomes embroiled in a tug of war with his father-in-law for custody of his daughter. His relationship with his own mother is touchy without any basis beyond an old minor misunderstanding. Though raised in the Church, he hasn’t been active since moving to Washington D.C. and justifies to himself an occasional drink when offered as a toast or gesture of friendship. He’s much too free with hugs, touching, and cheek kisses with every female he comes in contact for a man who loves his wife, and he is drawn too quickly after her death to closeness with an old girlfriend and to a woman from the law firm.
In spite of some glaring “first book flaws” and its predictability, this is an engrossing, fast paced read. There is an element of horror to the conclusion even though aficionados of suspense novels will see it coming. Perhaps knowing makes it more wrenching.