I just finished reading a most remarkable novel titled FEVER. It
started perfectly, and kept getting better and better until I
thought I was going to jump out of my skin if I read another word.
I was wrong about that. My skin is still intact, but not by
FEVER is written by Sean Rowe, who has quite a background. He's
been hit by a train and lived to tell about it; he's won awards for
journalistic achievement; and, most pertinent for our purposes here
today, he includes working as a copy reader for Adam &
Eve --- a mail order company dealing in, uh, adult recreational
products --- on his job resume. Although his debut novel doesn't
have any photos or drawings going for it, Rowe nonetheless
demonstrates that he is a craftsman of the highest order.
The story begins with what is probably the most ingenious frameups
I've encountered in quite a while. It is Matt "Loose Cannon"
Shannon who is on the receiving end of it; what hurts is that his
stepbrother, Jack Fontana, sets up the whole thing. Fontana is
freshly out of prison on an early release and has the ultimate
rip-off planned --- the theft of a fortune in drug money that is
secretly being transported in a cruise ship named the Norwegian
The problem --- one of many in this thrill-a-page novel --- is that
Shannon, a retired FBI agent, is the security chief for the world's
largest cruise line, whose holdings include the Empress. The frame
ensures Cannon's reluctant cooperation. Fontana recruits a mixed
bag of talent to pull off the heist, some of whom are tied to
Shannon's past in ways he is totally unaware. The operation
fluctuates wildly between success and failure from moment to
moment, with Shannon having to wing it more often than not simply
to stay alive and free at any given time.
And stealing the money is only half the battle. Shannon and Fontana
first have to retrieve it and then hang on to it, all the while
avoiding the law and lawless. Rowe is nothing less than marvelous
here. Just when you think things aren't going to get any worse,
they do. And when you think they can't possibly get better,
they...well, you'll have to read the book to find out.
FEVER just might be one of the best thriller reads of the year, a
year that has been full of great ones already. It's difficult to
put down, and impossible to forget.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 21, 2011