With apologies to Chef Emeril Lagasse, the best way to describe David Rosenfelt’s new novel, DOWN TO THE WIRE, is that the author has “kicked it up a notch” with a fast-paced, chilling mystery that is unlike any of his previous efforts. Rosenfelt is the author of an entertaining series that is a lighthearted courtroom and mystery combination featuring Andy Carpenter, a fast-talking and quick-witted attorney who verbally baits prosecutors, judges, police officers and citizens as he battles to free innocent clients. Readers know that Carpenter will prevail and that his client will be vindicated in the end. DOWN TO THE WIRE exudes no such banter or certainty and, indeed, manifests a tension throughout its pages that may keep audiences turning pages late into the evening.
Chris Turley is a reporter for the Bergen News, working the normal reportorial beats of local government meetings, press conferences and the occasional mysterious death. His famous father’s career far surpasses anything that he has achieved or could hope to achieve. Edward Turley, the last of a generation of accomplished investigative reporters, was Woodward and Bernstein rolled into one and a Pulitzer Prize winner to boot. His accomplishments serve as both a benefit and a burden to his son. Journalistic accomplishments of the young Turley are always measured against the career of the senior Turley.
One day, Turley arranges to meet an anonymous source who promises him a juicy political scandal with the elements of a great story: sex mixed with bribery. While waiting to meet his source in a downtown park, the neighborhood is rocked by a huge explosion that destroys a nearby office building. Turley rushes to aid the injured and rescues five people. He is a national hero who writes a firsthand account of his heroism, gives national interviews and makes appearances. Shortly thereafter, the anonymous source follows up on his information, and Turley brings down the promising political career of the town’s mayor. Another story coupled with massive publicity is the result.
But the events that thrust Turley into the spotlight are not just serendipitous happenings. The anonymous source is not merely a “snitch,” but a murderer intent on seeking revenge against him for a decades-old investigative story written by Edward Turley that ruined lives. Turley is now the source and reason for the deaths of dozens. What he thought might lead to a Pulitzer Prize is instead a nightmare journey that might result in his own death.
There is a tenseness and thrill to DOWN TO THE WIRE not found in any of David Rosenfelt’s previous mysteries. The suspense is immeasurable and unlike the lighthearted style that fans of the Andy Carpenter series have come to expect. The plot may have one or two twists too many, but that is not a major criticism. This thriller is a great read, and Rosenfelt has established a new style for his readers that hopefully will reappear in future novels.
Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman on January 21, 2011