A beautiful DOJ analyst who studies cases looking for professional hit men and a handsome young FBI bomb expert are sent from Washington to investigate a homicide by explosion in Ventura, California, then are sent on to Denver where a U.S. Senator died by curare-poisoned false teeth. Yes, really. If you enjoy books of that sort, you’ll probably enjoy this one, too. I don’t want to be your buzzkill, so if you liked it, that’s fine, just stop reading now.
I found the book so absolutely ludicrous and had to stop at page 80 because I couldn’t take it any more. My regular followers know that I’m a retired FBI agent and mystery book writer (7 novels now) and something of a stickler for verisimilitude. Virtually nothing in this book was even remotely plausible, which is what spoiled it for me. I know it’s fiction, but still. I’ll take this opportunity to educate you on a few real-life facts, as opposed to alternative facts. Do NOT be misled by Michael Connelly’s introduction. He should be ashamed of himself for having written it. He knows real police work as his Harry Bosch novels show.
1. DOJ doesn’t have analysts who look at individual crimes, much less ones who look for killers for hire.
2. Professional killers like the one in the book don’t exist. Sure, mafia and street gangs have killers, but they’re just regular thugs and gang-bangers, low-IQ, not well-paid, and not for hire. The pro for hire like the ones supposedly found in Soldier of Fortune magazine are all undercover cops doing sting operations, or informants hoping to catch someone trying to hire them for a hit job so they can get paid by the cops when they turn in the person trying to hire them.
3. Neither DOJ nor the FBI would send someone from WDC to Ventura to investigate what was believed to be an accident, and certainly not an agent with only four years of experience. The FBI Los Angeles office has a whole team of bomb experts led by people with 15 or 20 years of experience. The FBI probably would investigate a case of this sort as a domestic terrorist matter, but not send someone from back east.
4. Fertilizer bombs do not go off just by having a blasting cap embedded in the fertilizer. You need fuel oil or something similar to make them explosive, like Timothy McVeigh’s Oklahoma City bomb. This “expert” seems to know nothing about explosives.
5. At one point Elizabeth asks the Ventura police chief for a car and driver to take her around because she doesn’t want to interrupt her FBI partner who has their car keys. This almost had me rolling on the floor laughing. If a police chief were even to spare the time to listen to her request, he would respond by saying “You want me to take an officer off patrol to chauffeur you around town when you have your own car?! Get out of here you *%^&$%#!”
6. The various methods of killing by the eponymous hit man are equally ridiculous. They make no sense whatsoever, but I won’t go into all the reasons why as this review would turn into a novel-length diatribe.
The writing is trite and hackneyed. I found later that even my wife had tried it and given up on it early. She had a one-word description: terrible. The author did absolutely no research on anything. How in the world this guy got this first novel published by a major publisher is beyond my comprehension, but somehow he became a big name in the genre. It just goes to show that talent has little to do with it.