agent Dillon Savich is driving down an isolated stretch of road on
the way to meet his wife, Lacey Sherlock, and their son, Sean, for
a much-needed vacation. Suddenly, a woman jumps into his car's path
and causes a near accident. He chases her to a large estate home.
She is obsessed with a man inside who is trying to kill her. When
Savich tries to help her, she flees in terror. Savich's call for
help with the local Sheriff gets sympathy but no definitive action.
According to Sheriff Doozer Harms, the Barrister house on Clayton
Road has been abandoned and vacant. The young woman Savich
described with excellent detail was Samantha Barrister, murdered
thirty years earlier.
The following morning, his getaway grinds to a halt when a phone
call summons both him and his agent wife back to Washington, D.C.
Supreme Court Justice Stewart Califano is dead, murdered in the
Supreme Court Library. The Saviches are in charge of the federal
investigation and will work with local detective Ben Raven.
Califano's death is brutal; he was garroted by a thin wire. The
murderer is a professional. To complicate matters, Justice
Califano's stepdaughter, Callie Markham, is a crack journalist on
the Washington newspaper's staff. Raven accepts her help with
family information when she becomes a willing sidekick after taking
a leave of absence from her job.
Eight previous well-received FBI thrillers give author Catherine
Coulter credibility in BLOWOUT, a fast-moving but logical mystery.
The right amount of leakage makes the reader lean one way toward
the crime's solution, then veer in another when clues lead in a
different direction. Savich's encounter with the "dead woman" on
the moonlit road in rural Pennsylvania is a nagging unfinished
piece to a complicated puzzle.
The murdered Justice leaves a trail of questionable companions, his
three legal assistants at the top of the list. When two of them
come up dead, the FBI struggles to keep the third, Elaine
LaFleurette, alive. Meanwhile, clues lead to the murderer, a
contract killer who has been silent for more than a decade. Savich
stays a step ahead of Gunter Grass, the suspected killer, when he
hides LaFleurette in his home. But rapid-fire events compromise
The Justice's widow has a close-knit circle of four long-time
friends: Janette Weaverton, Anna Clifford, Juliette Trevor and
Bitsy St. Pierre. During the course of the investigation, the four
are a formidable group, protecting Margaret Califano from
intrusions into her past and present personal life. Their
smothering protectorate stifles the agents' forward progress.
Markham finds her loyalty to her stepfather's reputation and her
love for his memory at odds when confronted by the realities in the
case. And she has become more than a sidekick to Ben Raven when
their friendship takes a personal turn.
Loose ends keep both cases in turmoil until the final interviews
conclude. The results are acceptable but not necessarily neat.
Coulter writes with vigor, yet is sympathetic to her characters'
feelings. For her empathy, she can be allowed to exit with cases
solved but not totally resolved. She is a prolific writer, and
BLOWOUT leaves a thirst for the next Savich and Sherlock story to
unfold from her computer.
Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on December 22, 2010