THE SECOND HORSEMAN by Kyle Mills begins with no small irony.
Master thief Brandon Vale, arguably the best there is, has been
convicted of and imprisoned for a crime --- a jewel heist, no less
--- that he did not commit. What is even stranger is that, as he is
doing his time in a stand-up manner, he suddenly finds himself
escaping (unwillingly) from prison, coaxed along by an unfriendly
guard on the inside and shooed away by a fusillade of bullets on
Vale’s world turns upside down when he discovers that the man
behind his involuntary prison break is Richard Scanlon, a former
FBI agent who framed him for the heist that resulted in his
imprisonment. Scanlon has a reason for this change of heart,
however. A Ukrainian crime organization has put 12 nuclear warheads
on the market. Scanlon is aware of the sale but cannot get the U.S.
government to pay serious attention to it. Two hundred million
dollars will be needed to take the warheads off the market; in
order to obtain this amount of money, Vale plans to rob the bank
deposits of the major Las Vegas casinos.
Vale is a loveable rogue with a bit of a smart-aleck style, so the
result is somewhat of an Indiana Jones meets Ocean's Eleven caper.
There is a villain behind the curtain who wants Scanlon’s
plan to simultaneously succeed and fail for his own chilling
reasons, but his identity and motives are revealed far too early in
the narrative to create much suspense, at least as to the
“who” and “why” issues.
Still, THE SECOND HORSEMAN is great fun in spots, as Vale and his
minder, a fetching lady named Catherine Juarez, attempt to prevent
a nuclear conflagration masterminded by a brilliant but twisted
genius who believes that the utter destruction of millions of
people will bring peace to a region that has never known it.
Vale is an interesting, even charismatic, character who steadies
the novel when the plot occasionally stumbles. While there are
portions that require some suspension of disbelief, Mills is an
entertaining and at time compelling storyteller who can keep the
pages happily and quickly turning. Though not his best book ---
FADE arguably retains that laurel --- THE SECOND HORSEMAN is
certainly worth the investment if the reader is willing to make
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 23, 2011