Hotwire: A Maggie O'Dell Novel
Over the past several years, there has developed a special place in my heart and mind for the Maggie O'Dell books by Alex Kava. If I were to point to any one element to explain why this is so, I would have to say it's her ability to combine elements of mystery and suspense with a sympathetic character. The latter, of course, is O'Dell, an FBI agent who is quietly competent, rescues and occasionally needs the same, and who is...well, believable.
"Kava combines quietly eerie vignettes with some information about a drug you may never have heard of..."
You can add one other element to HOTWIRE, Kava's latest installment in the series: one cannot walk away from reading this novel without being just a bit smarter. In the case of HOTWIRE, a good deal of it takes place in Nebraska, and Kava drops a number of factoids and trivia elements into a fine and intriguing plot about cattle mutilations and drug use in the heartland. Suffice to say that O'Dell's investigation of cattle deaths takes a left turn when a drug party involving high school students turns very deadly, and not just for a couple of the kids at the scene of the party itself; somebody seems bent on slowly and systematically eliminating the survivors, one by one. Kava combines quietly eerie vignettes with some information about a drug you may never have heard of --- but I assure you, by this time next year, you will have --- that take a couple of unexpected turns before coming to a resolution that will leave you thinking for some time afterward.
Meanwhile, O'Dell's erstwhile love interest, Army Colonel Benjamin Platt, finds himself interjected unexpectedly into a series of incidents involving...grade school food poisonings? Yes, indeed, and Kava slips Platt into this scenario so deftly and so well that you will be amazed. Additionally, if you have ever had children, you will readily identify with one of the major scenes in HOTWIRE, one that put me in the mind of a major vignette in the early pages of CUJO by Stephen King. A number of surprises await Platt along with his frenemy, Roger Bix, the CDC investigator who drags Platt into the case to begin with. Bix, in fact, gets one of the biggest shocks of all. Did I mention that Kava gives readers their money's worth? One needs to pay attention, though, all the way up to the last word of the final sentence.
HOTWIRE has it all: solid storytelling that propels you right along, intriguing mysteries, memorable and believable characters, and ripped-from-the-news storylines. Oh, and some romance as well. This may be the book that answers the question as to whether O'Dell and Platt --- or anyone else --- are ever going to get together. Don't miss HOTWIRE, a perfect book for the middays of summer.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on July 12, 2011