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Once Paul Masterson was the best at what he did. Then two young agents were killed saving his life in a drug raid that left Paul ...
Once Paul Masterson was the best at what he did. Then two young agents were killed saving his life in a drug raid that left Paul maimed and half-blinded. Shattered by guilt, he left his job and family for the mountains of Montana, where he has lived in his own prison of silence.
Now the family Paul has not seen in six years is Martin Fletcher's final target--the last family. And Paul Masterson, who for six years has lacked the courage to see the people he loves most in the world, must face them again. He must create a foolproof safety net around their New Orleans home--all the while using his wife and children to lure an inhuman predator. And to prevail he must rediscover the fierce instinct to survive that once made him Martin Fletcher's match.
Miller opens with the gruesome slaughter of a Cub Scout on a field trip in the Smoky Mountains, thus diverting the boy's father (the killer's ultimate target) away from his wife, who is grieving from the recent death of her daughter—at the hands of the same killer, it turns out. The killer, creepy Martin Fletcher, shows up disguised as a doctor to dispense a lethal injection to the hapless wife. The scene then shifts to Montana, where former DEA agent Paul Masterson leads a solitary life in a remote mountain cabin, estranged from his wife, daughter, and son after a failed drug interdiction left him crippled and half-blind. Fletcher used to be a drug agent, too, and has sworn vengeance on the families of every former colleague he feels betrayed him. He's succeeded all too well and is down to his last family, the Mastersons. Paul, crippled in spirit as much as body, is brought back into the fray and ends up not only struggling to run down the maniacal Fletcher but dealing with nasty with departmental politics and a wife who doesn't know him (or trust him) anymore. The scenes in backwoods Montana are overdrawn, but Miller does his manhunt well, right down to his correctly rendered radio talk between Masterson and various pilots. And on the trail of death, Masterson begins to come alive again, to accept how deeply he cares about his family.
Fletcher's no Hannibal Lector—he's clever enough, but Miller doesn't bring to bear a sufficiency of detail to convince you that such a killer could exist. Still, the author writes with a tough authority and knows how to generate suspense. There are more novels about serial killers than serial killers, but this one's a cut above.
Paul walked to the door, his shoulders rolling from side to side as he went. "I can make some calls. Think it's someone we hurt in Miami?"
"It's Fletcher," Joe McLean said.
"Martin Fletcher?" It was as if Paul had been kicked in the chest. He all but staggered back against the doorjamb. His lip quivered and he blinked rapidly. "God, I had hoped he was dead."
It all came to the surface in a flash of pain. Martin Fletcher was the man who had had him shot. Fletcher had escaped from federal custody and vanished even as Paul had fought for his life in a Miami hospital's trauma unit. He had masterminded the hit on Paul's team from his prison cell and then had escaped the same day, before anyone could put it together.
"Far as I can find out, nobody's ever come close to catching him," Joe said.
Thorne sighed. "The family killings started four years back. That gave him a good two years from his prison break to plan it."
"I don't remember all of it. It's kind of fuzzy. I remember he escaped. If he was retaken, I never heard about it."
"Remember when he said he'd eat our hearts out?"
"Sort of. Yes. I know he was berserk last time I saw him. At the trial."
"What is this if not a way to eat our hearts out?"
"I remember sitting on the stand and his eyes as I testified. And the outburst when he was sentenced."
"He set us up, remember?" Thorne turned and looped out at the stream. "You know what he did to you...tried to kill all of us."
"I know what he did to me." Every time I look in the mirror or try to use my left hand or gauge depth.
"It's retaliation, Paul," Joe said, breaking in. "The ultimate twisting of the blade. Better than blowing our brains out."
"I'll make some calls," Paul said. "Some people still owe me, I guess. Maybe I can do something."
"I'd trade my life for two minutes alone with him," Thorne Greer said. "Look what he did to you, for Christ's sake. How long has it been since you left this goddamned cabin? Look around. You're stuck in a calendar shot. The closest town is a cluster of log huts. He's already fuckin' killed you, you just ain't noticed yet."
Paul looked out the window. "Five years since I came back here. Month since I even went to Aaron's store. I'm no good outside here. I just can't...you got to understand..."
"Goddamn it," Joe exploded. "You owe us. He fuckin' did it because of what you did. You nailed his ass to the cross. You set him against us."
"Come on, Joe. Fletcher's nuts," Thorne said.
"What?" Paul stammered. "I just arrested him."
"Nobody bothered to tell Martin it was merely an arrest and that you didn't mean anything by it," Thorne said.
"Martin left a note on Doris's body. Wanted you to know it was him. Said he'd leave you alone if you'd leave him be." Joe realized Paul was confused and frightened. But they had to have Paul to get Fletcher. Paul was once powerful stuff at DEA. At the time of the ambush he had been a heroic figure in the agency, a leader who went into the field and faced danger with his men. The files bulged with citations and press clippings on his career.
"I'm sorry...God, I'm sorry. I was doing my job. If I had known--Paul hung his head.
"Fletcher wants us to blame you. But we don't. Do we?" Thorne looked at Joe. Joe nodded slowly and slammed the flat of his hand against a beam. "Martin Fletcher's crazy as a shithouse rat."
"Crazy as a shithouse fox," Joe said.
"Couldn't it be anyone else? We made some people mighty unhappy. Maybe it's someone wanting us to think it's Martin. Hiding behind his mystique."
"The players we chased around after are mostly washed up--kids who were in diapers then are leaders now. Ochoa, Lopez, Perez," Joe said. "The ones that are still alive are in hiding in Spain, in jail, dead, or so deep in the jungle they're making monkeys."
"He butchered our families. He has to be stopped. You have to come out and help us," Thorne said.
"I'm sorry," Paul said. He looked out the window and took a deep breath and exhaled it. "I can't...can't think about going out there again."
"What the hell do you mean?" Joe snapped. "Haven't you been listening? Our families have been fucking wiped out! What makes you think he's finished?"
"There's only one family left, Paul. Yours."
Posted January 22, 2004
Granted this book had some unrealistic events, but I loved it anyway. It was fast paced, never boring or predicable. It was just enjoyable...
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