Demolition Angel

( 67 )

Overview

“TERRIFIC . . . EXPLOSIVE . . . [A] HIGH POWERED THRILL RIDE.”
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 ...
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Demolition Angel

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Overview

“TERRIFIC . . . EXPLOSIVE . . . [A] HIGH POWERED THRILL RIDE.”
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.”
People

“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 Barnes & Noble
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

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


From The Critics
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.
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
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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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345434487
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 7/3/2001
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 213,481
  • Product dimensions: 4.16 (w) x 6.88 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert Crais
Robert Crais is the author of nine previous novels, including the bestselling and Edgar-nominated L.A. Requiem. In addition to his previous award-winning books, Crais has written for such acclaimed television shows as L.A. Law and Hill Street Blues. He lives in Los Angeles. Demolition Angel has been purchased by Columbia/TriStar and producer Laurence Mark (Jerry Maguire, As Good As It Gets), and is being developed as a major motion picture.

Biography

Los Angeles is known as the city of dreams, largely because so many Americans dream of breaking into the Hollywood film and television industry. In 1976, Robert Crais went west from Louisiana to pursue that very dream. As it turned out, he became one of the lucky few to break into the industry in a big way. Crais has since written for such hugely popular TV shows as Quincy, Cagney and Lacey, Miami Vice, Hill Street Blues, and L.A. Law, just to name a few. However, after achieving such success (which included a prestigious Emmy nomination) in a business that so many would give everything to break into, Robert Crais decided to step away and pursue his true dream. Frustrated by the collaborative process that comes with screenwriting, and inspired by pulp-pioneers such as Raymond Chandler, Crais became a mystery novelist. With his massively popular Elvis Cole/Joe Pike mysteries series, it seems as though success has a funny way of following Crais no matter what he decides to do.

Crais published his very first novel in 1987. The Monkey's Raincoat introduced mystery fans to Elvis Cole and Joe Pike, a pair of L.A. private investigators who would become his most-beloved recurring characters. Crais's transition from screenwriting to novel-writing was an astoundingly smooth one. The Monkey's Raincoat earned him nominations for the Edgar, Anthony, Shamus, and Macavity awards, winning both the Anthony and Macavity for "Best Novel of the Year." Crais's publisher was so overjoyed by the novel's success that he encouraged Crais to keep the Cole/Pike team going. "I started writing these books to get away from writing other people's concepts, like TV and movies," Crais told Barnes&Noble.com. "I never expected to write these guys as a series...but the book proved to be so popular and the characters were so popular that my publisher wanted more." What followed was a series of bestselling mysteries, including Stalking the Angel (1989), Free Fall (1993), L.A. Requiem (1999), and last year's The Forgotten Man.

Although the series was not part of Crais's original plan, he still seems to hold the Cole and Pike team closer to his heart than anything he has previously written. He explained, "The characters have deepened, and I think they kind of reflect what's going on with me and the world as I see it." When asked about whether or not we can expect to see the crime-solving buddies on the big screen anytime soon, he said, "I think I would have a difficult time in the collaborative process when other people suddenly put their fingerprints on Elvis and Joe," further illustrating his personal feelings for his P.I. team.

As much as Crais loves his series, he does occasionally write novels outside of the Cole/Pike world. His latest, The Two-Minute Rule, tells the story of career criminal Max Holman, a recently released-from-prison bank robber who finds himself hunting an entirely different kind of criminal after his son is gunned down. The book has since raked in positive reviews from such publications as Booklist, Publisher's Weekly, and The Library Journal. While The Two-Minute Rule does not feature Cole and Pike, Crais fans will notice one significant similarity between his latest novel and his famous series -- the Los Angeles setting. "I can't think of a better place to set crime novels because of what Los Angeles is. Los Angeles is the main where the nation goes to make its dreams come true. When you have a place like that where so many people are risking their very identities, not just money and cash, but they're risking who they are because it's their hopes and dreams, when you have that kind of tension and that kind of friction, you can't help but have crime."

Fortunately, Crais will never have to succumb to such friction and tension since, for a success story such as he, Los Angeles completely lived up to its promise of being the city of dreams.

Good To Know

Some fun and fascinating outtakes from our interview with Crais:

"My first job was cleaning dog kennels. It was especially, ah, aromatic during those hot, humid Louisiana summers, but it prepared me for Hollywood."

"My fiction is almost always inspired by a character's need or desire to rise above him-or herself. No one is perfect and some of us have much adversity in our lives; it is those people who struggle to rise above their nature or background that I find the most interesting and heroic."

"Fun details? Like Elvis Cole, I have a dry sense of humor. Sometimes I am so dry that people don't know I'm kidding and think I'm being serious. I enjoy this because their reactions are often funny. Also, I wear beautifully colored shirts like Elvis Cole, only I was wearing them before him. People will say, ‘Look, RC dresses just like Elvis Cole,' and I'll say, 'No, Elvis Cole dresses like me!' I also wear sunglasses like Joe Pike, but not indoors and not at night."

"Elvis Cole wrote two episodes of television. No lie. It happened like this: I had written episodes of Miami Vice and Jag that were rewritten by person or persons unknown -- changed so badly that I didn't want my name on them, so I used Elvis Cole's name as a pen name."

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    1. Hometown:
      Los Angeles, California
    1. Date of Birth:
      June 20, 1953
    2. Place of Birth:
      Baton Rouge, Louisiana
    1. Education:
      B.S., Louisiana State University, 1976; Clarion Writers Workshop at Michigan State University
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

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?”

“No.”

“Smell anything burning?”

“Uh-uh.”

“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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Interviews & Essays

Meet LAPD Detective Carol Starkey, the wonderfully drawn heroine of Robert Crais's explosive new thriller, Demolition Angel. An ex-bomb tech whose horrible scars tell her grim story all too well, Starkey's a loose cannon who drinks, smokes, and spews venom at anyone who invades her space. But behind this rigid exterior, Starkey's a fragile woman whose insecurities and haunting dreams ceaselessly torment her. But now, with one colleague dead and a mad bomber on the loose, Starkey must confront her own painful past in order to track a killer who gets his kicks when cops go up in flames. Barnes & Noble.com editor Andrew LeCount recently spoke with the Edgar- and Anthony-nominated Robert Crais (L.A. Requiem) about his exciting new novel, the challenge of writing from the female perspective, and the big-budget Demolition Angel-based film that's already in the works. Enjoy.

Barnes & Noble.com: So, there's quite a buzz surrounding your new novel, Demolition Angel -- especially from Hollywood. Can you give us the up-to-date scoop?
Robert Crais: Well, Demolition Angel was bought by Laurence Mark, the producer of Jerry Maguire, As Good as It Gets, Simon Birch, and Romy and Michele's High School Reunion -- just a ton of really successful, terrific pictures. Larry saw Demolition Angel in manuscript -- he's over at Columbia TriStar -- wanted it, made a real heavy move-in, and we worked out a deal. They own the film rights and I'm writing the screenplay.

Barnes & Noble.com: Are you excited to be writing the screenplay?
Robert Crais: Oh yeah, I'm thrilled. You know, with a project of that magnitude, normally they're looking at A-list screenwriters. But what the heck, it was my book and I wanted to write it.

Barnes & Noble.com: I always seem to hear from authors whose works are being adapted to film that they feel alienated by the moviemaking process. It's nice to hear that's not happening in this situation.
Robert Crais: Yes, it's been wonderful working with Larry and Jonathan King -- who's the president of Larry's company. I've had a couple of meetings and phone conversations with them, and I've found those guys to be really easy and creative collaborators; they've had terrific ideas. In manuscript, Demolition Angel was like 630 pages long. Now I've got to compress it down to a 120-page screenplay. There's a lot of work to be done.

Barnes & Noble.com: And how's it coming along?
Robert Crais: This is my first experience adapting one of my own novels as a screenplay. I've had quite a bit of Hollywood experience, mostly writing television, so I'm familiar with the script form, and I'm comfortable with it, but it's a whole different thing -- I'm now finding -- when it comes to adapting your own work. But at the same time it's kind of thrilling, because the book had been finished and I had left Carol Starkey's world, and this is a great way to be back in it again and relive those moments with her.

Barnes & Noble.com: I can certainly see why the movie folks gobbled it up. It lends wonderfully to cinema.
Robert Crais: I'm excited. And I think you're right -- I think it'll make a terrific motion picture. Carol Starkey is such a vibrant and telling character. As a film, we'll have a wonderful opportunity to really cast a top, first-rate actress.

Barnes & Noble.com: Any personal faves for the part?
Robert Crais: Well, I don't know if I have personal favorites. Certainly there are actors who come to mind in the different roles. Most of the discussion has been about the major leads: Carol Starkey, Jack Pell, and Mr. Red. For Carol you're talking anyone from Sandra Bullock to Jodie Foster to Ashley Judd, and I'd be happy with any of these people. For Jack Pell you're talking about George Clooney -- a role that will be expanded for the movie. And for Mr. Red you're talking about actors like John Malkovich, who I would personally just love to work with. He's just a wonderful actor all the way around.

Barnes & Noble.com: What was your inspiration to write a female lead?
Robert Crais: Actually, there's a couple of things for me. My books have been changing over the past few years. L.A. Requiem, though it was an Elvis Cole and Joe Pike novel, was substantially different from the earlier Elvis Cole/Joe Pike novels. The books have been growing as the way I want to tell stories has been growing. The first seven books were fairly traditional detective novels: first-person, from Elvis Cole's point of view. L.A. Requiem blew the lid off that. It was multi-character, multi-viewpoint. It wasn't just a detective novel, though it was a detective novel. It was a police procedural; it was also a suspense thriller. For me, writing L.A. Requiem was like opening a series of doorways. It really expanded my horizons as to the types of stories I wanted to tell, the types of books I wanted to write, the types of tests I wanted for myself as a writer. Have you read L.A. Requiem?

Barnes & Noble.com: Yes, I have.
Robert Crais: Then you're familiar with Samantha Dolen. I've always had a reputation for writing strong female characters, but they've all been seen through Elvis Cole's eyes, because that's the point of view of the books I've been writing. After writing L.A. Requiem, I wanted to take the next step in this evolution, I guess you'd say, and that was to write a full-blown suspense thriller. I wanted to write something completely different from the books I'd written before. Since my first eight novels are all from a male point of view, and I loved Samantha Dolen so much, I wanted to change completely. When I say, "And now for something completely different," I mean it. So, I wanted to go with something I hadn't done before, and that was to sustain an entire novel about this strong, conflicted, tragic, damaged woman. And I've got to say, it was an adventure. It was a great good time for me to write and spend time with her.

Barnes & Noble.com: You mentioned how your Elvis Cole novels are primarily from the first-person perspective. Demolition Angel is from a third-person perspective.
Robert Crais: Yes. I wanted to approach Demolition Angel from a third-person point of view, start to finish. I experimented with that in L.A. Requiem, which was a split book -- part of it is from Elvis Cole's point of view; the other half is third-person points of view from various characters. I found that writing third-person accounts is a very energetic way to write -- and a very liberating way to write. And that's what I wanted to do from start to finish in Demolition Angel, to tackle it in third person. I'm still in the heads of the different characters, it's still a multi-character point of view, but there seems to be a great deal of energy and forward momentum that can be had in third person. It's a lot of fun for me to do that.

Barnes & Noble.com: Before we get ahead of ourselves, let's talk about the novel itself. Who is Carol Starkey?
Robert Crais: Carol Starkey is a former LAPD bomb technician who was actually "killed" on the job. She was clinically dead for a little over two minutes and resuscitated -- brought back. The job is the only thing she has in her life; she's currently working as a detective for the Criminal Conspiracy Section. She couldn't be back on the bomb squad herself, that wasn't allowed, so she's doing the next best thing: She's a bomb investigator, which is what the Criminal Conspiracry Section with the LAPD does. Bomb techs de-arm bombs and deal with the actual devices; the Criminal Conspiracy Section investigates those who build bombs. That's what Carol's doing now.

Barnes & Noble.com: And who is Carol's prime adversary?
Robert Crais: In all seriousness, it's herself. When we pick her up in this book, Carol Starkey is falling apart. Something really terrible happened to her three years ago -- that's when she was blown up on the job. She's never recovered from that. She's holding herself together by drinking way too much gin, chain-smoking cigarettes all day long, eating antacids because she's in a constant state of conflict, fear, and tension. She's coming apart, but she hides it from everyone. She won't even go to an LAPD psychologist for counseling -- she goes to private counselors. She doesn't let on to anyone in her professional life that she has no personal life; everything that she was ended on that day three years ago. What I wanted to do was take a character like that, watch her struggle with those things, then see if she could rebuild herself.

Barnes & Noble.com: What fascinated you about bombs in the first place?
Robert Crais: The first time I got interested in bombs was when I was researching L.A. Requiem. Because L.A. Requiem is a police procedural, which I hadn't written in the past, I wanted my procedure to be accurate, so I set about researching all the different aspects of murder crime scenes and how homicide investigators do their work. One of the things that that entailed was speaking with criminalists; plus, I wanted to see the SID (Scientific Investigations Division) labs and get a feel for them. Well, it just so happens that the SID offices share grounds with the LAPD bomb squad. So, when I visited SID, sitting in the parking lot were all of these bomb squad Suburbans and a group of bomb techs walking around in their black commando fatigues; it's a small group but there they were -- there's all this hardware, there's all this technology that I'd never been exposed to, and I grew fascinated by it. And that planted the seed. I said "You know, there's a book there." It's too bizarre a life for a book not to be there.

Barnes & Noble.com: You speak of "chronics" in Demolition Angel -- those who keep going back to bombs. Did you speak with real chronics while researching?
Robert Crais: I didn't meet any actual chronics, but I learned of them and spoke at length about them with bomb techs on the LAPD. I went to the bomb squad, spent some time there, interviewed several bomb technicians, interviewed the commander of the LAPD Bomb Squad, even went back to Washington, D.C. where I spent time speaking with the ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms) Explosives Division to get their input. But while I was talking with the bomb techs here in Los Angeles, they mentioned this whole notion of chronics. I'm fascinated by bizarre psychology and here, clearly, was a form of obsessive compulsive behavior, very much akin to arson. Chronics are people who are so drawn to this obsession -- to making things that blow up -- that they literally destroy themselves; even that doesn't stop them. By the way, chronics are not mad bombers who are saying "let's go blow up a Barnes & Noble"; most of these people don't want to harm anyone, they just want to make something blow up. They'll go out to the beach where there's no one around, just to set off something; or they'll go out to the desert and blow up an old car; it's not like they're the Unabomber -- they're not. They're just mentally ill people; just like people who set fires, these are people who must make really big firecrackers even though, over time, they end up blowing themselves apart. The more I found out about this world, what's known as the "bomb community," I became increasingly fascinated.

Barnes & Noble.com: How would you describe a bomb technician?
Robert Crais: If I had to liken them to anything, I'd say they're puzzle people. This is totally my supposition here: One of the things that appeals to them is the whole puzzle aspect. Here's this unknown device; bomb techs are very much personally challenged by the notion of de-arming that device. Here's a puzzle that someone else has built. My job is to undo the puzzle so that no one gets harmed. There's something about that physicality that appeals to bomb techs. I don't think that anyone goes into this job with some kind of double-Y chromosome, ultra-macho notion of "I wanna risk my life." The bomb techs I met seem to be extremely calm people and very professional -- and absolutely confident that they could undo any puzzle -- any machine -- that someone else had built, and I think that's the challenge and appeal.

Barnes & Noble.com: Are bomb technicians in Los Angeles busy?
Robert Crais: You know what, the reality is no, not that much. The vast majority -- not just in L. A., but I think everywhere -- of call-outs for bomb squad are simply harmless boxes, bags of whatever that were left and abandoned, that turn out to be nothing. Then, when it's an actual munition that could pose a danger, the vast majority of those call-outs are really for stuff such as -- say your Uncle Harry stole a couple hand grenades when he got out of the Marine Corps, and now someone's found them in the garage and they don't know what to do with them, so they call out the bomb squad. Or, say Uncle Harry stole a mortar round -- it's in the attic, "Oh my God, what're we gonna do?" So bomb squad goes out. Very, very few call-outs are what's known as an "improvised munition," wherein some kook has actually constructed what you and I would look at and say, "That's a bomb." But, of course, that happens...

Barnes & Noble.com: The Internet plays a large roll in your novel. With the advent of the Internet, is bomb-making more prevalent?
Robert Crais: The Internet certainly makes it easy to have bomb-making information. As part of my research, I went on the Internet searching for bomb websites and this kind of information; in the course of a couple of days, I printed off 300 pages of bomb designs, bomb plants, chemical formulas, chemical equivalents, on and on and on and on. It's there. Look at the kids from Columbine -- that's what they were doing. But, of course, the government knows it's all there too; they're aware of it. It appears to me, though, that there's no way to really control it; the Internet isn't set up that way, so it's there and it's a problem.

Barnes & Noble.com: Did you find Internet chat forums as described in Demolition Angel?
Robert Crais: No, that was a fabrication. I don't know if such a chatroom exists, but if someone told me that such a chatroom did exist, I would buy it. The notion grew out of my learning from a sex-crimes detective here in Los Angeles that such chatrooms exist on the Internet for pedophiles. There are secret chatrooms, which can be gotten to if you know where to look and how to enter them, where pedophiles talk about what it is that they do. So, if you can have a chatroom where people discuss that, then it seems to me that such a chatroom can exist whose interest is explosives.

Barnes & Noble.com: Were you afraid delving into this novel knowing you'd be doing so without your good buds Elvis Cole and Joe Pike?
Robert Crais: You know, yes -- a little. After writing eight books set in Elvis Cole's Los Angeles, I know it; I know Elvis Cole, I know Joe Pike, I know those characters. Yet here I'm starting at the beginning. Here's Carol Starkey who's a total stranger. Here's the world that Carol Starkey moves in, and I had to educate myself about that world. And I really wanted to get in deep -- I really wanted to learn it; I wanted her life to feel real, her job to feel textured and true. It was daunting. Every day was a test, every day was a learning experience.

Barnes & Noble.com: Will you ever revisit Carol Starkey's world?
Robert Crais: When I wrote Demolition Angel, I had no intention of doing that; my notion was that this was a one-shot, a stand-alone suspense thriller. But I enjoy Carol Starkey so much, it is certainly possible that I will come back to her again. I've got my next two books already in mind: I'm working on both the next stand-alone and the next Elvis Cole novel. So the soonest there could be another Carol Starkey would have to be three books from now.

Barnes & Noble.com: So, you're continuing to write stand-alone novels. Do you feel rejuvenated by writing new characters, settings, circumstances, etc.?
Robert Crais: Yes. When I finished Demolition Angel I was raring to go on another Elvis Cole novel. There was a sense of rejuvenation. There was a sense of having taken a vacation, gone to another place, and now I'm anxious to get home. The way I expect things to go in the future is to continue to alternate Elvis Cole novels with stand-alone suspense thrillers.

Barnes & Noble.com: Thank you so much for your time.
Robert Crais: Thank you.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 67 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2003

    Demolition Angel

    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

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2000

    Perfect Stuff for a Long Train Ride or Plane Ride

    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.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 5, 2000

    A Shattering Thriller

    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.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2000

    Heart Stopper

    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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2000

    Demolition Angel

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 28, 2014

    Awesome

    Really enjoyed this book..

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2013

    Great!

    Great story! I really did enjoy this bok!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2013

    My Favorite

    I loved rreading all of Mr. Crais' books & this is my favorite. Hope to see more of this character, she's great!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2012

    Great read

    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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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2012

    What a waste

    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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  • Posted May 5, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Great Book

    I have not read one book by Robert Crais that is not a great read. He is my favorite author.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 31, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Not Quite 3 Stars

    I read Hostage a few years back and found that to be a TRUE keep-you-awake-all-night compelling read. I finally got around to reading Demolition Angel and figured it would be as good, if not better, based on the premise. Unfortunately it fell far short of my hopes and expectations. Too much of the character development was overly drawn out; at 375 pages, the book perhaps could have been cut down by a good 75 of them by simply not being so thorough in that development. Where Hostage just seemed to flow at a great pace, this one was nearly laborious to get through. Good plot and good characters - but just not enough to rate above 3 stars. Two and a half would be the most accurate rating in my humble world.

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  • Posted June 13, 2009

    SURPRISING READ!!!

    This book was selected for the book club I belong to. The members were intrigued by the choice, it being out of the norm for our discussions.

    The whole "cop" genre is not something I'm too interested in, but I began with an open mind.

    I was amazed at how much I enjoyed this book!!!!! The plot keeps you guessing, the characters are interesting, and the ending had me literally gripping the book while reading!!!! Plus, I grew up in Los Angeles, where this story takes place, and totally identified with many of the cities and landmarks mentioned throughout the story.

    This book made me purchase another Crais novel (winner of many awards), "The Monkey's Raincoat". But I have to admit I didn't enjoy it half as much as "Demolition Angel".

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2002

    My first read by this author.

    This is the worst book i ever read. It is a total waste of time. You might get the same adventure watching an episode of LAPD or Law And Order.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 7, 2000

    Quilted Thriller

    As the pages of this novel continue to turn don¿t expect to find a character who manages, like Elvis Cole, to be at the same time arrogant and self-effacing. Of arrogance there is no shortage, to be sure, some of it veering toward the tragic, some the downright grotesque. Flannery O¿Connor described a writer as being someone on whom nothing is ever lost. Crais seems to have ingested and digested prodigiously, Aristotle to Unforgiven, to produce a layered thriller that fairly leaps off the page to shout, MOVI

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2000

    Move over Elvis Cole, Carol Starkey is here

    I know Elvis and Joe Pike will be back, but Carol Starkey, former LAPD bomb squad expert, will fill the void very nicely. Someone is blowing up bomb experts all over the country and ATF agent Jack Pell teams up with Carol to try and solve them. Meanwhile, the mysterious Mr. Red is dropping clues and bombs around town. Is he the bomber they seek for their local problem, is he the nationwide mad bomber, is Jack all that he seems? Read the book and find out. You won't be sorry or bored!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 16, 2000

    Demolition Angel

    Bomb squad technician Carol Starkey is struggling to put her life back in order after an explosion kills her lover/partner, and leaves her scarred for life. When a bomb call turns into a murder scene, Carol takes charge of the case. Teaming up with Special Agent Jack Pell, the two begin to discover that this was not a random terrorist bombing, but a clever plan, targeted at specific bomb technician's. Carol must race to stop a maniac, and possibly her own life. 'Demolition Angel' begins with a bang (literally) and keeps moving with speed to the climax. Robert Crais has written a totally original, powerhouse of a novel. Put this on your MUST read list.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 16, 2000

    Boom

    As a first timer to the novels of Robert Crais, I could not have picked a better book to start with. In Demolition Angel, Crais departs from his former characters and takes us into the explosive world of the Los Angeles Bomb Squad. Carol Starkey is an LAPD Bomb Technician who is lucky to be alive, living a second life, after surviving a blast that killed her partner and lover David 'Sugar' Boudreaux. Starkey is now a Detective Second Grade with the Criminal Conspiracy Section teetering on the verge of her own mental health - now on her third shrink and a steady diet of gin, cigarettes and Tagamet - each day is a struggle to justify her survival. Starkey now catches her first real case, a case involving the death of a former colleague in the bomb squad - to solve it she must master all her fears, deal with the past and get back to doing what she does best - finding the bomber - but can she get back to the place she needs to be? With help from an ATF agent named Pell, Starkey is introduced to the notion that the bomber has a very sinister agenda - killing bomb technicians. Pell begins to share information, leading Starkey to a serial bomber that goes by the name Mr. Red - and the hunt is on - but was this bomb the work of Mr. Red or of someone else. The game begins - will the real killer be found in time. Crais has taken a very real possibility - that of domestic terrorism - set it against the vast loneliness of Los Angeles. Starkey is in a life and death struggle with her own personal demons and unless she can master them, and summon all of her knowledge - the bomber will win and she will die for a second time. This book is a page turner - explosive!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2000

    Brilliant

    I read Demolition Angel by Robert Crais. I loved the book--in fact I think I like this one a little better than the 'Elvis Cole' novels. It was full of suspense right from the first page, and I had a very hard time putting the book down. I would recommend it to all suspense readers. I hope he writes more novels with the Carol Starkey character.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2000

    Excellent Read - All Nighter

    This one works. A complex plot peopled with complex characters should put this one on everyone's thriller list. Action starts before chapter 1, so don't skip the Prologue. Carol Starkey is a bomb-hardened Los Angeles Detective in the Criminal Conspiracy Section working her way back to the bomb squad. A simple-looking pipe bomb detonates in a shopping mall and turns out to be much more than your standard pipe bomb. It's Starkey's turn in rotation, and she begins the investigation. The FBI Bomb Data Center and the ATS National Repository turn up similarities between this bomb and others found around the country, which lead her into the more complex world of a 'chronic', a person who is addicted to bombs and the excitement of seeing their effects. Sometimes her own worst enemy, Starkey manages to move from one extreme to the other and back again during the chase. Many twists, dead ends, and convolutions make this a test of your predictive and investigative skills. Tightly plotted, tightly written, and complex with non-stop action. This will keep you reading into the night.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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