Master of suspense BarryEisler links two of his series together in the hard-hitting and compulsive thriller The Killer Collective and uncovers much more than a plot to kill a police investigator. Emotions ride high, and ironically, in the midst of explosions of all sorts, Eisler’s two unusual protagonists tangle with matters of the heart.
Readers of Eisler’s long-running “Rain” series will eagerly see the half-Asian John Rain discover he’s not really happy with retirement; when he gets a job offer, he sniffs the wind like a fire horse called back to the station. But the assignment involves killing a woman, a violation of his set-in-stone and well-known rule. Why would anyone think he’d accept such a job?
Before he’s quite figured out what’s happening behind the crime scene on this one, Livia Lone’s investigation leaps into focus. A Seattle sex-crimes detective, Livia bumps into an FBI sting that might force her to not make a move against a vicious child pornography ring. And not just “kiddie porn,” horrible as that is, but this ring is into hurting children, on film. Livia, a “survivor” of something similar, can’t possibly let this slide.
Soon both Rain and Livia are in touch with a former asset they’ve worked with, Dox, himself a former marine sniper. When the team expands to include Rain’s estranged lover (a Mossad agent), a pair of black-ops soldiers, and a formidable former commander, Special Operations legendary Colonel Scott Horton, the mixed motives and conflicting agendas make every planning session into a potential minefield of harsh opinions and strong actions.
Rain can see the dangers clearly—it’s part of his expertise, watching for clues into how people operate, and finding a way to get his goals met. Here, he’s assessing the interaction between SpecOps professionals Larison and Treven:
Larison was watching Treven. The irritation was gone from Larison’s expression, replaced by an odd flatness. I could imagine his calculus: If you’re not with us, you’re against us. And I could imagine the destination to which that logic must have already led him.As formidable as he was, that was Larison’s one weakness: you could read the danger he radiated. If I had decided to kill Treven, there would have been no changes in affect. I would hae kept trying to cajole him right up until it was done. But when Larison made a decision, if he wasn’t ghosting up on you from your flanks, you’d hae a chance to know his intent before he acted on it.
Dangerous as these allies are, Rain and Livia are at least as dangerous to those around them, each in pursuit of a different form of justice. And each is someone you need to stand well away from, if you’re having to wake them up, because they always come awake fighting.
This dangerous and driven collaborative of agents, motivated to save Livia and cut off the hydra heads of the porn ring trying to assassinate her, become Eisler’s “killing collective.” Page after page, explosion and killing and escape after another, this sharp-edged storyteller pulls off one of the great escapades of all time and sets it in Paris, for extra verve.
And if, afterward, the notion seems unlikely, the collective too dangerous, the odds of success against it—that part won’t matter. The fun of Eisler’s super thriller is in the excitement, the chase, and the survival. The Killer Collective binds it together it into a blazing adventure of espionage escape fiction, perfect to start the new year.
From Thomas & Mercer, January 1 publication.
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