"Vendetta: Italian, from Latin vindicta,
revenge; see vindictive."
On a late August night in an Idaho trailer camp, a man dies a
horrible death. It was a murder so gruesome, it could only be
revenge. Before the killer finished off his victim, he wanted to
know just one thing: Who was the man in the long blue coat? His
victim could not --- or would not --- tell him.
A few weeks later, another man is found dead, this one on the
streets of a Tuscan hill town. Again, the murder is too horrific to
be a mere mugging gone wrong. Witnesses report hearing voices from
his room but none claim to have seen anything.
Major Brancati of the Italian carabinieri summons Micah Dalton, who
purportedly knew the dead man, to identify the body. Dalton is sad
to see his old friend so mutilated, obviously the result of a slow
and painful death. He answers the major's questions, but volunteers
nothing. Brancati has a feeling that Dalton is not being totally
forthright with him. Dalton's job description is "cleaner," and his
employer is known as Burke and Single, a bank, but even Brancati
doesn't buy that. Dalton's skills and acuity are simply too sharp
--- and the manner of death of his colleague too methodical and
personal --- for Dalton to be anything but CIA.
Keeping his true employment a secret becomes the least of Dalton's
worries when more corpses start to pile up. The connection? They
all were associated with a project called Echelon, a seemingly
harmless, even mundane, operation. Its purpose was vague, but no
red flags come up when Dalton does some digging. So who would want
to kill the members of such an innocuous group?
Several likely suspects pop up, one especially interesting fellow
who Dalton desperately wants to follow up on. Unfortunately, his
superior, Jack Stallworth, reins him in and sends him to interview
another ex-Echelon operative, a man named Willard Fremont. Dalton
can't understand why the sudden interest in Fremont since Fremont
seems to have just had a really bad day and gone postal with a
postal worker. Even considering that he was attached to Echelon,
the idea of checking Fremont out smacks of a ploy to derail
Dalton's investigation. Is Stallworth trying to lead him away from
the truth, or is he protecting one of his best operatives from
In fairness to Stallworth, Dalton has been drinking pretty heavily
and saying some pretty weird things, weird enough to question his
fitness for duty. He has been alternating between normal function
and hallucinations, yet he denies any psychotic break from reality
--- most likely trying to convince himself as much as anyone. But,
since his choices are to have a little chat with Fremont or
nothing, Dalton chooses the former. And wisely so, for some of what
Fremont has to say puts Dalton back on track.
Fraught with spine-tingling chases, scary near misses and several
nasty deaths, THE ECHELON VENDETTA will keep you turning pages to
the surprising end.
Reviewed by Kate Ayers on January 21, 2011