FRIENDS CLOSE, ENEMIES CLOSER…BUT WHICH IS WHICH?
Nikki Heat is distracted as she walks up to the pizza restaurant. She is so distracted that she actually forgets her decade-long ritual of giving a minute of silence to the soul of the person whose body she is about to view for the first time.
The cause of her distraction is two-fold, though both reasons are closely related. It has been three weeks since Nikki narrowly missed being assassinated by the rogue CIA agent who murdered her mother ten years prior. Although that murderer is now dead, poisoned in his jail cell, his handler faked his own death and escaped. So now, Nikki is still a potential target because the person who ordered both her mother’s death and her own is still out there.
The second distraction is the highly publicized debut of a magazine website that is using an article by Jameson Rook, Nikki’s significant other, as its lead story. That article is the story of Nikki’s mother’s life as a spy, her death and the capture of her murderer. The intimacy of the story itself is bad enough, but the real worry for Nikki is that the publicity will be used to taint her cases and that jealous colleagues will stonewall her investigations.
So, forgetting her ritual, Heat views the dead body, stuffed in a pizza oven and well baked. Also in the oven are the man’s unbaked ID as a Health Department restaurant inspector, an unbaked but dead rat, and an unbaked coil of red string. The man had been chloroformed and shot to death before being baked, but those are only more clues, not consolation.
Before Heat and her team can get a good start on this murder, a second body turns up. The consumer advocate for one of the major NYC TV stations has been found chloroformed and then strangled with a TV coaxial cable. Close by is a yellow string – attached to a red string. Clearly, the murderer wants Heat to know that the murder victims are connected.
Then the notoriety brought on by Rook’s web page article sets in motion a cause-and-effect scenario. The article causes the escaped CIA handler to order Nikki’s death – again. The effect occurs when a reader of the article recognizes Nikki in a coffee shop and asks her to autograph his cup. This simple but embarrassing request causes Nikki to delay picking up her own latte from the counter. But it doesn’t stop the gruesome and immediate death of a homeless man who schlepped her cup and found it laced with the same poison as in the jailhouse murder.
Not only have these rogue espionage agents declared open season on Nikki Heat, so has the serial killer with the string signature. He calls Heat at the precinct and lays down the gauntlet. He declares her his best challenge to date but tells her that she will lose both the case and her life.
With Rook at her side, as well as Roach, Feller and Rhymer from her team, Heat juggles both cases. More bodies surface, more connected strings for not only the serial killer case but for the rogue agent/terrorist case. And at every turn, she has to fight interference from the lead agents of the DHS and the CIA assigned to the rogue agent/terrorist situation. And she must constantly maneuver around her inept, clueless media hound of a precinct captain and the equally inept female detective, with whom he is having an affair, that he has assigned to Nikki’s team.
Now, all this set-up takes place in the first few chapters. The remainder of the story becomes increasingly intense and convoluted as the two cases tumble over each other and actually merge into each other. But it is a story that is well told and is quite the page-turner.
And this is definitely a novel where the reader has to keep close watch on the clues and an even closer watch on who says what to whom and when. Then, just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, the author twists the arc and you have to start over.
In the end, the plot of this fifth entry in the series clearly hinges on the old adage that advises, “Keep your friends close and your enemies even closer.” And before it is over, both Nikki and the reader will be wondering just who is friend and who is enemy. And we will definitely worry about the author’s definition of “closer.”
Cover Art From Goodreads