Not again . . .
That thought greets us in our re-introduction to Robert Brixton who we are indeed meeting again in Murder on the Metro (Forge, 288 pages, $28.99). The title marks the return of the Margaret Truman’s New York Times bestselling Capital Crimes series to bookstores, now with Jon Land (the Caitlin Strong series) ably, if not masterfully, taking the helm.
In replacing the late Don Bain, Land has injected a fresh relevance to the series along with a much-needed shot of adrenaline. The not again in question refers to a nightmarish ride on the Washington Metro during which international private investigator Brixton faces a second potential Islamic radical suicide bomber just five years after losing his daughter to the first. That Metro scene, an agonizingly suspenseful set piece in its own right, lends the book not only its title, but also its tone.
Brixton, who Land inherited, is now more inclined to use his fists as much as his wits, and that’s a good thing given that Murder on the Metro pits him against a conspiracy to pretty much end democracy in America forever. But this is not an exercise in ripped from today’s headlines, so much as one predicting tomorrow’s. Indeed, the events populating the thirty-first Capital Crimes novel overall spin off from a scheme hatched within the White House itself that involves the deaths of millions of Americans. Not too long ago, such means in pursuit of political ends would have seemed an exercise in the absurd. Now, not so much.
Good thing, then, that Brixton is joined by former Israeli commando Lia Ganz who trails what she believes to be a radical Islamic terrorist plot all the way to Washington where the two become a team. An odd couple for an action-driven thriller, given that both are grandparents, as if Land is aging his heroes to conform with the advancing years of the audience whose thirst for thrillers propelled the genre to new heights when The Da Vinci Code was published in April of 2003.
Murder on the Metro, though, resonates well beyond even that title and almost all its competition in this crowded field, thanks in large part to the character of Sister Mary Alice Rose, an 80-year-old nun who doubles as an anti-nuclear activist drawn from the real-life exploits of Sister Megan Rice. From the time Brixton and Ganz bust Sister Mary Alice out of federal prison, the book’s pace escalates to a dead sprint thanks to her providing them with the means to access the world’s largest nuclear repository the forces behind the massive conspiracy are about to make go boom.
Having followed Land stake his claim to the Murder, She Wrote series, he seems on much firmer, more comfortable ground here, at home in the kind of territory he’s spent his career exploring. And the result is a no holds barred tale that harkens back to classics like Fletcher Knebble’s Seven Days in May and James Grady’s Six Days of the Condor. A political thriller extraordinaire that packs a wallop and pulls no punches.
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