If you are not already familiar with J. D. Rhoades from his
excellent Jack Keller series, then BREAKING COVER will hit you like
a two-by-four between the eyes. Over the course of three novels,
Rhoades has quickly established himself as a writer’s writer,
with his work being textbook exhibits of how the job of writing the
edge-of-the-seat thriller is properly done.
BREAKING COVER is a stand-alone work, taking place a step or two
outside of the Keller mythos. Fans will not be disappointed by his
absence, however temporary, as there are enough explosions,
fisticuffs and general mayhem to fill three books.
The opening scene takes place in a convenience store, where gas is
sold out front and just about everything you can reasonably think
of is inside. Rhoades nails the setting right down to the last
nuance, including a description of the cashier that is so dead-on
as to be jaw-dropping. It is one of those heartbreaking homemade
“Have You Seen Us?” posters on the side of the cash
register, with a picture of two missing young brothers, that is the
early tipping point for the book. For, indeed, shortly after buying
gas, a customer sees one of the boys, apparently being held captive
in a white van. He follows the vehicle and initiates the rescue;
although he should be hailed as a hero, he bails.
The reason is that the rescuer is Tony Wolf, a former undercover
FBI agent who dropped off the grid and out of sight several years
before. Wolf has been presumed dead, not only by his former
employers but also by his wife, Kendra, an FBI agent herself. When
he fell off, Wolf was working undercover with a biker gang whose
viciousness almost defies description; his self-initiated exit
interview from the gang involved a fiery double-cross that left one
of the gang leaders a paraplegic. Now that Wolfe has suddenly
resurfaced, alive and well and on the run, he has both the FBI and
a crew of gang members full of simmering revenge after him.
Wolf, however, has not spent the past few years assuming he was
in the clear; instead, he has been preparing for the inevitable.
And when the day of reckoning comes, Wolf is more than ready to
dole out street justice to those who have it coming. There are some
factors, though, that he cannot anticipate, including a dogged
television reporter who keeps getting in the way; his wife, who
insists upon being a part of the investigation; and a traitor
within the FBI’s own ranks. The book has more than one
surprising and explosive ending, and while you might guess one of
them, it is doubtful you will anticipate them all.
Reading BREAKING COVER is one of the few times I’ve become
short of breath from turning pages so quickly. I kid you not. You
should get a note from your doctor that your cardiovascular system
is in shape before you beginning reading this. But it’ll be
worth every minute on the treadmill.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on December 23, 2010