COLD FRAME, P.T. Deutermann (SMP) A secret NSA-sanctioned assassination squad, known only as the DMX, goes rogue in this exciting political thriller from Deutermann (Sentinels of Fire). The leader of the DMX, the arrogantly ambitious Carl Mandeville, arranges for the murder of one of the group’s own members, Francis X. McGavin, who’s threatening to reveal the DMX’s existence to Congress. Gavin appears to die of natural causes at a Washington, D.C., restaurant, but the Metro PD’s Det. Sgt. Av Smith, whose insubordinate behavior has gotten him banished to an assignment doing little more than shuffling police cases to the appropriate federal agency, suspects foul play. Mandeville considers Smith a minor hindrance in his strategic plan to cleanse the U.S. of foreign security threats and orders for him to be arrested and killed. Despite little support from his own department, the crafty Smith proves a more formidable foe than Mandeville imagined. The reliable Deutermann has again assembled a smartly written, smoothly paced drama that never rings false.
Deutermann's latest thriller looks at the relationship between police and government agencies, and what happens when they collide. Washington, D.C., Metro detective Av (for Average) Smith is on the outs with his superiors, having never done anything to distinguish himself (hence the nickname). When a government official dies mysteriously in a restaurant, Smith lands the case. Soon another murder occurs, and he learns that both victims were members of a committee known as DMX. Any pursuit inside the inner workings of this organization is met with resistance, making Smith himself a target. The investigation itself and the insider information it reveals prove fascinating, though Smith himself is a bit of a cipher (the downside of building a thriller around an "average" protagonist). The ending, however, is terrific, more than justifying thriller fans' investment in a novel that offers a compellingly realistic view of counterterrorism.
- Jeff Ayers