Demolition Angel

Demolition Angel

4.1 69
by Robert Crais

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The Wall Street Journal

“CRAIS IS AT THE TOP OF HIS GAME, and Demolition Angel delivers the goods. With a bang. . . . It’s Silence of the Lambs meets Speed as down-on-her-luck former bomb-squad ace Carol Starkey plays

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The Wall Street Journal

“CRAIS IS AT THE TOP OF HIS GAME, and Demolition Angel delivers the goods. With a bang. . . . It’s Silence of the Lambs meets Speed as down-on-her-luck former bomb-squad ace Carol Starkey plays cat-and-mouse with a serial bomber. . . . Crais knows how to press all the right buttons in keeping the story line taut and the action, well, explosive.”
–San Francisco Chronicle

“GRIPPING . . . CRAIS PILES ON PLOT TWISTS . . . gathering the separate threads at the end and igniting them like a string of fireworks.”

“A POWERFUL, SELF-CONTAINED NOVEL OF SUSPENSE that has the compactness, velocity, and effectiveness of a well-aimed bullet . . . This is a thriller that works on every level, a pivotal work from a crime novelist operating at the top of his game.”
–Los Angeles Times

“FASCINATING AND FRIGHTENINGLY BELIEVABLE . . . Starkey is one of the toughest characters to grace the crowded field of thriller books in a long time.”
–USA Today

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A flammable techno-thriller with the kind of force that knocks out windows.”
–The New York Times Book Review

"Packs an explosive punch. Though the pace of the book moves like a quick-burning fuse, Crais still takes the time in Demolition Angel to sketch out some memorable characters: Starkey, haunted and hollow-eyed, covering up her pain with a Bogart-tough demeanor; and John Michael Fowles (aka Mr. Red), a sociopath who gets all sorts of information from the Internet without breaking a sweat. . . . Crais keeps things wound so tight that readers will be getting paper cuts in their rush to finish this one.”
–The Denver Post

“The final pages can hardly be turned fast enough, and the climactic violence is tempered masterfully with a sweet irony.”
–The San Diego Union-Tribune
The Barnes & Noble Review
In recent years, a number of established suspense writers -- Robert B. Parker, Jonathan Kellerman, and Walter Mosley spring immediately to mind -- have shown a commendable willingness to take chances, to run the risk of alienating their audiences by trying something altogether new. In the large majority of these cases, change has had a positive, even liberating effect and has resulted in a number of memorable novels, including Family Honor, Billy Straight, and Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned. The latest manifestation of this burgeoning trend comes from Robert Crais, Edgar-nominated author of L.A. Requiem. Crais's latest, Demolition Angel, is his tenth novel and the first in which neither Elvis Cole nor Joe Pike makes an appearance. It is also, to my mind, the best novel Crais has written to date.

Like Crais's earlier books, Demolition Angel is set in the violent, vibrantly rendered world of modern Los Angeles. It is, in fact, linked to those earlier books through a number of small, unobtrusive narrative threads. This time, though, the protagonist is a damaged young woman named Carol Starkey, a plainclothes detective whose life is in a state of extreme disarray. Earlier in her career, Carol worked as a technician for the LAPD bomb squad and spent her professional life investigating -- and frequently disarming -- homemade bombs of various types. That phase of her career ended when a low-level earthquake detonated a device that Carol, together with her partner and lover, Sugar Boudreaux, were attempting to neutralize. Sugar died instantly. Carol also "died" but was eventually revived, despite massive damage to the entire right side of her body. Now, three years later, Carol works for the CCS -- the LAPD's Criminal Conspiracy Section -- although her real life effectively ended on the day of the explosion. She is still haunted by nightmares, sleeps barely two hours a night, and appears to subsist on gin, cigarettes, and Tagamet. She has no friends, no love life, and nothing to live for but her job.

As Demolition Angel opens, Carol is assigned to investigate the death of Charlie Riggio, a bomb squad technician who is blown apart by a remote-controlled device of unusual power. The distinctive composition of this bomb -- its unusual components and idiosyncratic construction -- seems to reflect the signature of an elusive psychopath known simply as Mr. Red, a garrulous monster who builds bombs for pleasure and profit and whose governing desire is to earn a spot on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list. As a result of Mr. Red's rumored involvement, the federal government intervenes, and Carol finds herself forcibly partnered with a troubled, secretive ATF agent named Jack Pell.

Pell's involvement complicates matters in a number of ways. First, Carol finds herself reluctantly -- almost shamefully -- attracted to him. Against her better judgment, she allows Pell to influence certain aspects of her investigation and even finds herself withholding information from her fellow investigators in the CCS. At about the same time, she uncovers forensic evidence that opens up a new possibility: Charlie Riggio was killed not by Mr. Red but by a mysterious, well-informed copycat. This possibility changes the nature of the entire investigation, which culminates, eventually, in a series of dramatic encounters with Jack Pell; the upper echelons of the LAPD; a vivid assortment of felons, killers, and demolition hobbyists; and, finally, with Mr. Red himself. With great skill and unstoppable narrative momentum, Crais leads both Carol and the reader through a complex maze of surprises and hidden agendas to a tense, satisfying, and literally explosive conclusion.

Crais is in the top of his game in this one, and he gets all the details, large and small, exactly right. His portrait of the hazards of a bomb technician's life is chilling and convincing. His corollary portrait of the deranged subculture of bomb enthusiasts -- loners and misfits who build elaborate web sites dedicated to the joys of demolition and gather together in clandestine chat rooms to feed their demented obsession -- is equally chilling and opens up a little-known corner of the modern world. Mostly, though, Demolition Angel draws its strength -- and a great deal of its essential character -- from Crais's empathetic presentation of Carol Starkey, a haunted, enormously vulnerable survivor who has almost -- but not quite -- withdrawn from the world of quotidian human concerns. She is the vital human center of this involving book, and I hope to encounter her again.

Like L.A. Requiem, Demolition Angel is the clear product of a good writer who is constantly getting better and steadily moving his fiction into new and unexpected areas. It's possible, I suppose, that admirers of the Elvis Cole books will be disappointed by this temporary departure, but they shouldn't be. Demolition Angel is an excellent novel, a first-rate thriller, and a big step forward for an adventurous writer who has all the moves and who could become the king of the hill in his crowded, highly competitive field.

—Bill Sheehan

Barnes & Noble Guide to New Fiction
This "really good" crime thriller is crafted around a bomb-squad technician turned detective in L.A.'s Criminal Conspiracy Section. Kept readers "guessing until the end." "Wow! Michael Connolly on acid! What a wonderful twisting plot."
Carol Memmott
Demolition Angel's contemporary edginess is crafted around Crais' exploration of Internet bomb sites. He builds as story that's fascinating and frighteningly believable.
USA Today
Best known for his macho Elvis Cole mysteries, Crais can create engaging, believable women too...Crais piles on the plot twists and complications, gathering the separate threads at the end and igniting them like a string of fireworks...[An] explosive thriller.
People Magazine
Best known for his macho Elvis Cole mysteries, Crais can create engaging, believable women too...Crais piles on the plot twists and complications, gathering the separate threads at the end and igniting them like a string of fireworks...[An] explosive thriller.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Acclaimed for his Elvis Cole mystery series (L.A. Requiem, etc.), Crais deserves further garlands for this stand-alone crime novel. The book features one of the most complex heroines to grace a thriller since Clarice Starling locked eyes with Hannibal Lecter, a deliciously spooky villain in the person of a mad bomber known as Mr. Red, and an aggressively involving plot. Carol Starkey was a rising light in the LAPD Bomb Squad until, two years back, a bomb blew up in her face, maiming her and killing her lover/partner. Now Carol's a bitter, chain-smoking alcoholic with the LAPD's Criminal Conspiracy Section, who gets drawn into a literally explosive conspiracy when a bomb kills Charlie Riggio, one of her former bomb squad colleagues. Forensic evidence points toward the bomb being the work of John Michael Fowles, aka Mr. Red, a coldhearted young bomber-assassin-for-hire and master of disguise. Much of the narrative concerns Carol's pursuit of him, most excitingly on the Net through a secret mad-bombers' site, aided by a saturnine federal (ATF) agent, Jack Pell. Intercut are scenes of Mr. Red's various mad plottings, which take a hairpin turn when he learns that the cops think he killed Riggio: for in fact he didn't. That murder pans out as a copycat crime for personal gain, and now Carol must pursue both Riggio's killer and Mr. Red, who in turn has taken an intimate interest in this bomb-savvy female cop. The subsequent pas de deux between Carol and Mr. Red is too reminiscent of the dance between Starling and Lecter, but otherwise this novel gets high marks for originality, and even higher ones for suspense and, above all, for multidimensional, wounded characters who give all the excitement a rare depth. BOMC and Literary Guild featured selection; Mystery Guild main selection; author tour; film rights sold to Columbia/Tri-Star. (May) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Library Journal
After seven successful novels featuring Los Angeles PI Elvis Cole, Crais made a secondary character the star of his eighth (L.A. Requiem, LJ 6/1/99). In his latest, he changes even more, dropping the male PI for a female police officer. Carol Starkey, an LAPD bomb-squad technician who nearly died in a blast three years earlier, is emotionally burned out. When a partner is killed by a bomb in what Starkey realizes is an assassination, she finds herself caught up in a deadly game with a serial bomber who targets individuals--including her. Working against colleagues and procedures, and helped by an ATF official who is not what he seems, Starkey pulls us into the surreal world of those who love explosives. Fast paced, authentic, well written, and combining suspense and police procedural, this tale features a tough heroine who should win a whole new audience for Crais. Highly recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/00].--Roland Person, Southern Illinois Univ. Lib., Carbondale Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\

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Random House Publishing Group
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4.18(w) x 6.86(h) x 1.04(d)

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PROLOGUE To be disrupted: when the human body is blown apart; as by the pressure force of a bomb. —Gradwohl’s Legal Medicine

Code Three Roll Out Bomb Squad Silver Lake, California

Charlie Riggio stared at the cardboard box sitting beside the Dumpster. It was a Jolly Green Giant box, with what appeared to be a crumpled brown paper bag sticking up through the top. The box was stamped green beans. Neither Riggio nor the two uniformed officers with him approached closer than the corner of the strip mall there on Sunset Boulevard; they could see the box fine from where they were.

“How long has it been there?”

One of the Adam car officers, a Filipino named Ruiz, checked his watch.

“We got our dispatch about two hours ago. We been here since.”

“Find anyone who saw how it got there?”

“Oh, no, dude. Nobody.”

The other officer, a black guy named Mason, nodded.

“Ruiz is the one saw it. He went over and looked in the bag, the crazy Flip.”

“So tell me what you saw.”

“I told your sergeant.”

“Tell me. I’m the sonofabitch who’s gonna approach the damned thing.”

Ruiz described seeing the capped ends of two galvanized pipes taped together with silver duct tape. The pipes were loosely wrapped in newspaper, Ruiz said, so he had only seen the ends.

Riggio considered that. They were standing in a strip mall on Sunset Boulevard in Silver Lake, an area that had seen increasing gang activity in recent months. Gangbangers would steal galvanized pipe from construction sites or dig up plastic PVC from some poor bastard’s garden, then stuff them with bottle rocket powder or match heads. Riggio didn’t know if the Green Giant box held an actual bomb or not, but he had to approach it as if it did. That’s the way it was with bomb calls. Better than ninety-five percent turned out to be hairspray cans, some teenager’s book bag, or, like his most recent call-out, two pounds of marijuana wrapped in Pampers. Only one out of a hundred was what the bomb techs called an “improvised munition.”

A homemade bomb.

“You hear ticking or anything like that?”


“Smell anything burning?”


“Did you open the bag to get a better look?”

“Hell, no.”

“Did you move the box or anything?”

Ruiz smiled like Riggio was nuts.

“Dude, I saw those pipes and shit my pants. The only thing I moved was my feet!”

Mason laughed.

Riggio walked back to his vehicle. The Bomb Squad drove dark blue Suburbans, rigged with a light bar, and crammed with all the tools of the bomb technician’s trade, except for the robots. You wanted the robots, you had to call them out special, and he wasn’t going to do that. The goddamned robot would just get bogged down in all the potholes around the box.

Riggio found his supervisor, Buck Daggett, instructing a uniformed sergeant to evacuate the area for a hundred yards in all directions. The fire department had already been called, and paramedics were on the way. Sunset Boulevard had been closed, and traffic rerouted. All for something that might turn out to be some do-it-yourself plumber’s castoff drain trap.

“Hey, Buck, I’m ready to take a look at that thing.”

“I want you in the suit.”

“It’s too hot. I’ll use the chest protector for the first pass, then the suit if I have to bring out the de-armer.”

All Riggio would be doing on the first pass was lugging out a portable X-ray to see inside the bag. If the contents appeared to be a bomb, he and Daggett would formulate a game plan and either de-arm the device, or explode it in place.

“I want you in the suit, Charles. I got a feeling about this one.”

“You’ve always got a feeling.”

“I’ve also got the sergeant stripes. You’re in the suit.”

The armored suit weighed almost ninety pounds. Made of Kevlar plates and heavy Nomex batting, it covered every part of Riggio’s body except his hands, which remained bare. A bomb tech needed the dexterity of unencumbered fingers.

When the suit was in place, Riggio took the Real Time RTR3 X-ray unit and lumbered toward the package. Walking in the suit was like walking with his body wrapped in wet quilts, only hotter. Three minutes in the armor, and sweat was already running into his eyes. To make it worse, a safety cable and hardwire dragged behind him, the hardwire connecting him to Daggett via a telex communicator. A separate wire linked the Real Time to a computer in the Suburban’s cargo bay. He felt like he was pulling a plow.

Daggett’s voice came into Riggio’s ear. “How you doing out there?”

“Sweating my ass off, thanks to you.”

Riggio hated this part the most, approaching an object before he knew what it was. Every time was the same: Riggio thought of that unknown object as a living beast with a life and a mind. Like a sleeping pit bull. If he approached it carefully and made the right moves, everything would be fine. If he startled the dog, the damn thing would rip him apart.

Eighty-two slow-motion paces brought him to the box.

It was unremarkable except for a wet stain on one corner that looked like dog piss. The brown paper bag, crumpled and uneven, was open. Riggio peered into the bag without touching it. Leaning over was hard, and when he did, sweat dripped onto the Lexan faceplate like rain.

He saw the two pipes that Ruiz had described. The pipe caps appeared to be about two-and-a-half inches in diameter and taped together, but nothing else about them was visible. They were loosely wrapped with newspaper, leaving only the ends exposed. Daggett said, “How’s it look?”

“Like a couple of pipes. Stand by. I’ll get us a picture.”

Riggio placed the Real Time RTR3 on the ground at the base of the box, aimed for a side view, then turned on the unit. It provided the same type of translucent shadow image that security personnel see on airline baggage units, reproducing the image on two screens: one for Riggio on top of the RTR3 and another on the computer back at the Suburban.

Charlie Riggio smiled.

“Sonofabitch. We got one, Buck. We got us a bomb.”

“I’m seeing it.”

The two pipes were impenetrable shadows with what appeared to be a spool of wire or fuse triangled between them. There didn’t appear to be a timer or an initiator of a more sophisticated nature, leading Riggio to believe that the bomb was a garage project made by an enterprising local gangbanger. Low-tech, dirty, and not particularly difficult to de-arm.

“This one’s going to be a piece of cake, Buck. I make a basic fuse of the light-it-and-run-like-hell variety.”

“You be careful. Might be some kind of motion switch tucked away in there.”

“I’m not gonna touch it, Buck. Jesus. Gimme some credit.”

“Don’t get cocky. Take the snaps and let’s figure out what’s what.”

The procedure was to take a series of digital computer snaps of the device via the Real Time at forty-five-degree angles. When they had the device mapped, Riggio would fall back to the Suburban where he and Daggett would decide how best to destroy or de-arm it.

Riggio shuffled around the box, aiming the Real Time over the different angles. He felt no fear as he did this because he knew what he was dealing with now and trusted he could beat it. Riggio had approached over forty-eight suspicious packages in his six years with the Bomb Squad; only nine had been actual explosive devices. None of those had ever detonated in a manner that he did not control.

“You’re not talking to me, Charlie. You okay?”

“Just got to work around the potholes, Sarge. Almost done. Hey, you know what I’m having? I’m having a brainstorm.”

“Stop. You’ll hurt yourself.”

“No, listen to this. You know those people on the infomercials who make all that money with the stupid shit they sell? We could sell these damned suits to fat people, see? You just wear it and you lose weight.”

“Keep your damned head with that bomb, Riggio. How’s your body temp?”

“I’m okay.”

In truth, he was so hot that he felt dizzy, but he wanted to make sure he had good clean shots. He circled the box like a man in a space suit, getting front, side, and off angles, then pointed the Real Time straight down for a top view. That’s when he saw a shadow that hadn’t been visible in the side views.

“Buck, you see that? I think I got something.” “What?”

“Here in the overhead view. Take a snap.”

A thin, hairlike shadow emerged from the side of one pipe and extended up through the spool. This wire wasn’t attached to the others, which confused Riggio until a sudden, unexpected thought occurred to him: Maybe the spool was there only to hide this other wire.

In that moment, fear crackled through him and his bowels clenched. He called out to Buck Daggett, but the words did not form.

Riggio thought, Oh, God.

The bomb detonated at a rate of twenty-seven thousand feet per second, twenty-two times faster than a nine-millimeter bullet leaves the muzzle of a pistol. Heat flashed outward in a burst of white light hot enough to melt iron. The air pressure spiked from a normal fifteen pounds per square inch to twenty-two hundred pounds, shattering the iron pipes into jagged shrapnel that punched through the Kevlar suit like hyperfast bullets. The shock wave slammed into his body with an over-pressure of three hundred thousand pounds, crushing his chest, rupturing his liver, spleen, and lungs, and separating his unprotected hands. Charlie Riggio was lifted fourteen feet into the air and thrown a distance of thirty-eight feet.

Even this close to the point of detonation, Riggio might have survived if this had been, as he first suspected, a garage bomb cooked up by a gangbanger with makeshift materials.

It wasn’t.

Bits of tarmac and steel fell around him like bloody rain, long after Charlie Riggio was dead.

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Demolition Angel 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 68 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Three years ago Carol Starkey, a top-notch bomb squad technician came back from the dead. Her partner and lover died. Since then she has been burying her survivor's guilt with alcohol and Tagamet. While assigned to LAPD's Criminal Conspiracy section, Carols lands a case in which a seemingly easy bomb to diffuse kills another technician. She soon finds herself investigating a series of bombings in which the bombs were deliberately designed to kill the technicians. Robert Crais has written a fast pace novel with twists and turns that will keep you turning the pages until you are done. He has successfully created a complex multi-dimensional wounded character in Carol Starkey while at the same time immersing you in the authentic world of bomb making and the dangerous world of the bomb technicians. This is the first book I have read by Robert Crais and I now have a new author to add to my To Be Found (TBF) and To Be Read (TBR) piles. I highly recommend this book. Review by: Lillian Porter
Guest More than 1 year ago
I usually don't read a lot of thrillers, but there are a few mystery writers to whom I am loyal, and Robert Crais is one of them. Probably like a lot of others, I was skeptical about a novel/thriller that didn't include his normal detective duo. Forget about that---this is a fine story that includes some great characters that are well-named, like 'Mr. Red'. Anyway, Crais is an intelligent writer, who isn't too vulgar or cheap, and he has been able to make the transition from a standard 250 page detective novel to a first rate, full length thriller with all new characters. I don't think anyone will be disappointed, and this guy has the potential to be a major bestselling author in the future. Carol Starkey, his protagonist, is a little too stereotypical (lots of gin and cigarettes), and it is not really credible when she falls in love with another investigator, but the story is so strong that you will forgive Crais this time. I hope he keeps improving because he is getting close to excellent.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you haven't read Robert Crais you are in for a hair rising ride in the fast lane. Demolition Angel is a pedal-to-the-metal thriller that jolts you from the get-go and dosen't letup until its head-on finale. Carol Starkley, an ex-bomb tech, gets reassigned to LAPD's Criminal Conspiracy Section. While battling her inner fears, she embarks on an investigation involving the bomb death of a fellow officer. Caught on an emotitional roller coaster, Carol must not only overcome adverse hostillities, but do battle with a demonic mind not seen since Francis Dolarhyde slithered off the pages of Thomas Harris' Red Dragon. Mr. Crais has woven a tale so shocking it will keep you turning pages well into the wee hours of the morning. An unforgettable read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Hope your heart is in good shape, because after reading Robert Crais's new novel, Demolition Angel, you'll need a strong one. Fast paced, twists and turns, heart-racing action--these are the characteristics of this suspense/thriller. Carol Starkey is Crais's new leading character--a former bomb squad technician who legally died three years ago, now in a detective position sifting through bombing aftermaths. Searching for a serial bomber, Carol is put through the paces by Crais. Every time you feel that you know what's coming, Crais twists the plot and makes a connection that you really didn't expect.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Bomb technician Carol Starkey is struggling to put her life back together, after an explosion kills her lover/partner, and leaves her scarred for life. When a bomb call turns to murder, Carol takes the case. Carol teams up with ATF Special Agent Jack Pell to investigate the bombing, the results are shocking...this was not a random bombing but a clever plan, directed at specific bomb technicians. 'Demolition Angel' speeds to a stunning climax. Robert Crais has written a novel that will further cement his bestselling status. This is EXCELLENT entertainment. A perfect, page-turning beach book. A MUST read.
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NettAL More than 1 year ago
Really enjoyed this book..
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great story! I really did enjoy this bok!
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I loved rreading all of Mr. Crais' books & this is my favorite. Hope to see more of this character, she's great!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Diamond in the ruff. Thought I would try this novel since I like Patterson and other well known mystery fiction writers. What a wonderful surprise having a down to earth heroine. I plan to read more from this author. Not the ruff I expected.
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About a detective with huge issues who obviously needs to be fired. No police force would keep anyone acting like she dose employed. Dont waste your time and money on this one. I find it hard to believe it was published.
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