I always struggle with reviewing whodunits – I don’t want to give too much away! And Backfire is a novel that relies on you not having too much advance information. It is a blockbuster thriller in the age-old tradition of conspiracies, ominous notes and goodies who might be baddies (or not…) I believe this is the 16th in Catherine Coulter’s FBI series (but the first one I’ve read) and if you’re already a fan, you’ll be familiar with hard boiled lead investigators Dillon Savich and Lacey Sherlock – a husband and wife team, just to complicate matters.
This time around, San Francisco Judge, Ramsey Hunt (a close buddy of Savich and Sherlock’s) is shot while enjoying some family time before starting work on a murder trial. The trial – which will propel the novel’s plotline – involves a couple alleged to have taken out a man who was himself working on a top secret government project. I probably don’t need to say much more! There are heart stopping chases, secrets revealed, a missing prosecutor and a very determined killer who is always one step ahead of the combined forces of FBI and Federal Marshalls working on the case.
There is quite a lot of character detail here for a thriller and we get to know key figures like Ramsey, Savich and Sherlock as much through their partners, children and home lives as through their professional personas. Apparently the book wraps up some ends left dangling in Coulter’s previous novel The Target, but I had no trouble following it as a stand-alone read and found myself enjoying the characters’ banter without prior knowledge.
This is a formulaic novel in many ways but, if you enjoy the thriller genre, it ticks every box! The action is fast-paced and Savich and Sherlock make for likeable sleuths. Their personal relationship adds a few twists and complications to the investigation too: it’s one thing if your work partner faces trouble in the line of duty – but what if they’re also your life partner? I recommend this as one to read by the pool these holidays when you want to escape from the every day without too much emotional commitment.
Backfire is released in Australia on 2nd January 2013 and is published by Penguin. I thank them kindly for my copy.