Ruckus. Mayhem. Panic. Pandemonium. These are just a few words
to describe the busiest retail day of the year, the day after
Thanksgiving known as Black Friday. As Alex Kava’s latest
book opens, three students are looking to crank the calamity dial
up to 11. Upon entering the Mall of America, the country’s
largest mall, they prepare a device in their backpacks to emit a
wireless signal that will disrupt some computer systems. Other than
a few major retailers, no one is supposed to be hurt by the prank.
Unfortunately, the contents of the backpacks are not as advertised,
and a violent explosion leaves shoppers killed and maimed. This
massacre drags FBI profiler Maggie O’Dell away from her own
post-Thanksgiving celebration in Virginia --- a fete that includes
newfound love interest Benjamin Platt --- to Minnesota to
participate in the investigation.
But O’Dell may not be ready for the task at hand. She
currently has a lot on her plate, and unfortunately none of it is
leftover turkey. Still reeling from the death of her former boss,
A. D. Cunningham, O’Dell must deal with her new boss,
Assistant Director Ray Kunze, who is trying to peg her for
Cunningham’s death. Kunze is more than ready to throw
O’Dell under the bus as a scapegoat; he sees her impulsive,
difficult nature as a proverbial thorn in his organization’s
side. Despite their shared antagonism, the two are forced to work
together to get to the bottom of who exactly bombed the Mall of
America and why.
While O’Dell and Kunze are transported to the mall,
Homeland Security Assistant Deputy Director Nick Morrelli is on a
parallel course to the site as well. Morrelli, a representative of
United Allied Security (which has the mall as a client), and
O’Dell are not strangers, having worked together in the past.
Furthermore, Morrelli has sought a more intimate relationship, an
overture that O’Dell has declined. Morrelli, however, is
tenacious, and their mutual investigation gives him further
opportunity to press his case. But there is work to be done, and
one of the most frightening aspects of the bombing is that no one
has claimed responsibility for the terrorist act.
For O’Dell, the investigation almost immediately strikes
too close to home. It appears to the investigators that
O’Dell’s brother, Patrick, who was at the mall when the
bombing occurred, was with the students carrying the backpacks and
possibly may have been involved. Patrick knows only that some of
his acquaintances had planned a prank. And he may be able to
provide the only lead as to the identity of an enigmatic, capable
and extremely dangerous mastermind known as the Project Manager.
When O’Dell and the other investigators learn that there are
other attacks scheduled --- the next to occur in less than 24 hours
--- it becomes imperative that she find her brother, not only to
ascertain what he knows but also to keep him from becoming one of
the next casualties.
Kava uses two techniques --- short chapters and frequent scene
shifts --- to keep her well-crafted plot racing along against a
clock that ticks louder with each page. O’Dell is a real and
believable protagonist, and, unfortunately, one can foresee that if
there is another successful terrorist attack on United States soil,
it will probably unfold in the way that Kava describes and for the
same reason. Read BLACK FRIDAY, and be both entertained and
forewarned in equal measure. Although the subject matter may come
off as ominous, Kava’s writing balances that feeling of dread
with its quiet, understated genius. Think of her as a personal
driver who is set to take you on the ride of your life. Like the
best of drivers, she knows when to speed up, when to slow down, and
when to shift as she propels her readers along a straightforward
plot line loaded with scenery that keeps one on edge from
journey’s beginning to end.
Clearly, I am jazzed by Kava’s writing. And when you
finish reading BLACK FRIDAY, you will be as well.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on December 22, 2010