Vapor Trail

Vapor Trail

4.6 6
by Chuck Logan

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No tears were shed when the hunt went cold for "The Saint" — an elusive vigilante who earned folk hero status after fatally pumping twelve bullets into a known pedophile. Now, a year later, in the blistering heat of the hottest Minnesota summer in memory, a priest has been executed in a church confessional — a medal of Nicholas, patron saint of children,


No tears were shed when the hunt went cold for "The Saint" — an elusive vigilante who earned folk hero status after fatally pumping twelve bullets into a known pedophile. Now, a year later, in the blistering heat of the hottest Minnesota summer in memory, a priest has been executed in a church confessional — a medal of Nicholas, patron saint of children, stuffed into his mouth. The Saint may be back — and retired law enforcement officer Phil Broker is being called into service as a favor to a friend. Only an outsider can dig deeply enough into an investigation the police seem to have no enthusiasm for — but for Broker, it means stirring up dangerous ghosts from his own haunted past. And once he himself becomes the hunted, there will be nowhere to turn for sanctuary. Because this time the killer might be a cop ...

Editorial Reviews

Rocky Mountain News
“A first-rate read....Keeps you guessing to the end. You won’t see this one coming.”
Lansing State Journal
“Captivating.... The tension rises during a Minnesota heat wave.”
“A hot read....An intelligent, intriguing thriller about revenge, loyalty and courage...Old-fashioned, gimmick-free storytelling.”
People Magazine
"A hot read....An intelligent, intriguing thriller about revenge, loyalty and courage...Old-fashioned, gimmick-free storytelling."
Publishers Weekly
Logan's new police thriller, a sequel to Absolute Zero, has former cop Phil Broker on the hunt for "the Saint," a mysterious killer of suspected child molesters whose signature is a St. Nicholas medallion left in the mouths of his victims. The Saint's latest target, a Catholic priest, has fallen prey in the small town of Stillwater, Minn., where Broker, a retired cop who worked undercover for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, now lives. The local police chief lacks the manpower to marshal much of an investigation, so he hires Broker. Soon, Broker's instincts lead him to two prime suspects. One is Harry Cantrell, a notoriously violent cop and drunkard with a particular dislike for child molesters. The other is a prosecutor, the lithesome Gloria Russell, still seething over her courtroom defeat that let a child killer walk free. Also on Broker's mind is the fact that his estranged wife, an undercover government operative, has disappeared somewhere in Europe, along with their five-year-old daughter. Logan crafts his plot with vigor and clarity, setting up what initially looks like a predictable finale, then pulling the rug out from under readers. With rich characters, a voice of unhesitating assurance and a plot refreshingly free of gimmickry, Logan once again delivers good old-fashioned storytelling. Major ad/promo; 12-city author tour. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
When a priest is found shot to death in a church in Stillwater, MN, the sheriff calls on Phil Broker, Logan's recurring protagonist (Absolute Zero), to serve as special investigator. Broker discovers that the priest, who was found with a St. Christopher's medallion in his mouth, had been accused of child molestation but had been cleared of the charge. The medal is the calling card of the Saint, a vigilante who had shot another child molester a year earlier. Broker realizes that the Saint is back and is now killing people who have escaped justice. He must also find his old enemy, Harry Cantrell, a homicide detective who blames his wife's death on Broker. Drawing on the theme that justice sometimes fails, Logan clearly shows what the consequences are for the victims, the law enforcement officers, and the prosecutors. Along the way, he also reveals the personal lives of his characters and portrays the sometimes devastating impact of adult action on the lives of children. This novel has much more to say than the average thriller. For most popular fiction collections.-Jo Ann Vicarel, Cleveland Heights-University Heights P.L., OH Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
After four Logan winners, this diffuse potboiler about a vigilante serial killer disappoints. The targets: child molesters. And what’s wrong with that, you might ask? But if you’re a cop, you really shouldn’t be among them. And if you’re a cop, you absolutely shouldn’t be the triggerman—which brings us to the two a.m. phone call Phil Broker (in a sequel to Absolute Zero, 2002) gets from old friend John Eisenhower, Washington County (Minn.) sheriff. A priest with a checkered past has been shot to death in the confessional booth—the m.o. strongly suggesting that the Saint may have struck again. The Saint? A nickname fondly bestowed by those members of the media who view trial by jury as, on occasion, optional. And there’s evermore reason to believe, the sheriff tells Broker, that the Saint (in repose) may be police Sergeant Harry Cantrell. Some months back, the sheriff reminds Broker, there was the headline-grabbing Dolman case, in which a child molester managed to escape conviction though the evidence against him was overwhelming. Cantrell had been the arresting officer—and quick to claim a flagrant miscarriage of justice. And equally quick, many believe, to rectify it by pumping 12 bullets into Dolman’s body. Even if Sainthood doesn’t quite fit, the sheriff believes Cantrell has information he’s chosen not to share with his boss but that Broker, his former Vietnam War comrade-in-arms, might somehow pry loose. Citing past favors, Sheriff Eisenhower wants retired cop Broker to pin on a badge as a "Special Projects consultant." What’s left unsaid, though tacitly understood, is how dangerous a man Cantrell can be when crossed. And that Broker and Cantrell, ex-comrades-in-arms,are now the bitterest of ex-friends. Begins well but loses its way early and never recovers—stymied by unfocused plotting and a jumble of unrealized characters who seem to have wandered in from other stories. Author tour

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
First HarperTorch Paperback Edition
Product dimensions:
4.18(w) x 6.75(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

Vapor Trail

By Chuck Logan


ISBN: 0060185732

Chapter One

Angel stepped carefully over a crack in the sidewalk. Like in the kid's game, she chanted under her breath, but changed the words, Step on a crack, you get your body back. Then, reminded of her serious work this evening, she picked up the pace and simplified the chant to an occasional refrain, I'm not here. Not here. Not here ...

She had learned to make herself invisible when she was eleven. To leave her body entirely.

She knew it was a mind trick. She knew that here and now, physically, her body was walking, down the main street, in Stillwater, Minnesota, under a sweltering 104-degree July sky. The 84 percent humidity draped her face like a dishrag. Sweat trickled down her back and her stomach and collected in the crotch of the tights she wore underneath her sweatpants. She knew she was sweating because she was way overdressed for the weather.

She wasn't dumb. She knew she had a problem.

The people out there looking in, with all the big words in their mouths, had names for it. When she heard the term dissociative fugue, she imagined a cannonade of piano keys. She thought of Bach. She had read that other cultures understood the necessity to occasionally escape your life. Eskimos called it pibloktoq. To the Miskito Indians of Honduras and Nicaragua, it was gris siknis. The Navaho had their "frenzy" witchcraft, and the one she really liked the sound of - amok - came from Western Pacific cultures.

Personally, she preferred to keep it simple and was fond of the glass analogy. Of course they never took it far enough; the question was not whether the glass was half full or half empty, but rather what happened when the goddamn glass boiled over and started steaming away.

And all that stuff about identity disorders and multiple personalities reminded her of the old movie The Three Faces of Eve.

But this wasn't about Eve, was it?

No. This was about fuckin' Adam. But even invisible she had dressed with great care for this night's work.

The thick, wraparound praying mantis sunglasses distorted her face, and she intentionally overapplied the lipstick and the makeup. She wore her cheap woolly wig, not her good wig. The cheap wig was the color of dust and complemented her baggy oatmeal-colored sweatsuit and her scuffed tennies.

But the genius touch was under the sweatsuit. A custom-made padding suit called a body pod by the costume designers who'd sewn it together at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, who then had rented it to the Phipps Center for the Arts in Hudson, Wisconsin.

Which was where Angel had stolen it from a prop wardrobe, along with a pair of black tennis shoes with two-inch-lifts.

The tight-fitting body stocking was made of Lycra with generous foam pads expertly sculpted to add the appearance of thirty pounds to her hips, rear end, and stomach. The rig was light but bulky and made walking feel like being swaddled in inflated balloons.

She'd topped off her outfit with a flimsy navy blue nylon jacket stamped on the left chest and across the back with the scripted name of St. Paul's minor league baseball team: Saints.

So Angel rolled when she walked with the round-shouldered gait of a person who'd accepted the extra pounds of cottage cheese slung on her butt and hips and thighs. A full green cloth shopping bag dangled from one hand and bumped behind her on the concrete.

Layered in cheap cloth like a bag lady, she appeared odd moving along main street on the blazing late afternoon. The pedestrian traffic was smartly turned out sleeveless, in shorts, showing bare arms, expensive orthodontics, and tanned legs. Shoppers cruising the boutiques and antique stores did not look twice at Angel. She suggested the animated contents of an overstuffed trash closet that had burst out onto the street. People saw throwaway clothes on a throwaway person whose bottom-heavy body had veered out of control.

They averted their eyes.

Behind her sunglasses Angel studied the fleeting stares. Hi there. So look right through me.


See. Invisible.

So she tramped unnoticed down the main drag, left the shops behind, on past the historical society, past the patchy whitewashed walls of the old territorial prison and continued on, past Battle Hollow where a Sioux war party annihilated a Chippewa band in 1837.

Up the bluff the real estate took a nosedive where the city sewer stopped, and she arrived at the North End.

Angel took a left and climbed up a steep broken-asphalt street and into a gritty maze of ravines and gravel dead-end lanes. Her Goodwill camouflage blended right in with this little corner of Minnesota Appalachia. The yards had gone to seed, and weeds grew past the hubcaps of rusted cars hoisted on blocks. Paint peeled on the sagging trim and doorjambs of old frame houses. She paused in front of a house that tilted on its sinking foundations.

The broad-shouldered man in the sleeveless Harley T-shirt sat on his slumping porch. Just like he had the last two evenings at this time. An overgrown vacant lot separated his house from the yard of St. Martin's church.

She bent and adjusted the contents of her shopping bag so he could get a good look at her.

He wore tattoos, a red bandanna, and sweat. He was drinking a can of Pig's Eye Ale. He watched Angel straighten up and plod through the listing wrought-iron gate and into the church grounds.

"Big ass," he said as he mashed the empty can in his fist, dropped it, and went inside to avoid the sun.

Pleased, Angel turned her attention to the church. She knew that the North End was also known as Dutch Town and that St. Martins had once served a faithful enclave of German Catholics ...


Excerpted from Vapor Trail by Chuck Logan
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Meet the Author

Chuck Logan is the author of eight novels, including After the Rain, Vapor Trail, Absolute Zero, and The Big Law. He is a veteran of the Vietnam War who lives in Stillwater, Minnesota, with his wife and daughter.

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Vapor Trail 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In Vapor Trail, by Chuck Logan, Ronald Dolman was acquitted of charges for molesting a six year old boy. Then, he was shot twelve times when an unknown individual whom the public nicknamed ¿The Saint¿ decided to take the law into his or her own hands. Now, one year later, a priest, who was chased out of Albuquerque, New Mexico for allegedly molesting young girls, was shot to death in a confession booth. A sheriff deputizes Phil Broker to get leads on the case from an old colleague named Harry Cantrell who has been escorted to treatment for alcoholism. Harry blames the death of his wife on Phil and does not want to work with him. After evading Broker, Harry leads Phil on a cat and mouse chase through the Twin Cities area, slowly giving bits and pieces of clues to the identity of the Saint, nearly killing himself and Broker in the process. This thriller is thought-provoking, and hair-raising. I would recommend it to anyone, especially if you are from Minnesota because of all the references it makes to the landscape. Chuck Logan is a great writer, and I am looking forward to reading the rest of his works.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Last year in Stillwater, Minnesota, elementary school teacher Ronald Dolman was put on trial for molesting six-year-old Tommy Horrigan but despite the overwhelming evidence against him, the jury voted to acquit him. Somebody took the law into their own hands and murdered Ronald, an action the media and the public approved of wholeheartedly calling him or her ¿The Saint¿. A year later ¿The Saint¿ kills a priest in the confession booth because he was supposedly molesting little boys. Sheriff John Eisenhower deputizes private investigator Phil Broker (see ABSOLUTE ZERO) so that he can legally question Harry Cantrell who he suspects of knowing the identity of the Saint. After Phil gets the information from Harry, he is supposed to escort the policeman to a detox facility. Harry doesn¿t intend to make life easy for Broker who he holds responsible for the death of his wife and the Saint is not making it easy for the police. She has gone from vigilante to serial killer: methodical, organized and deadly. Author Chuck Logan has written an exciting police procedural thriller starring a protagonist whom tries to work on the right side of the law even when it cost him his friendship with Harry. The plot is full of red herrings, misdirection and unexpected twists and turns making VAPOR TRAIL an exciting roller coasters ride of suspense. The author ensures that the reader will read his next book by telling the audience where the hero¿s daughter can be found. Harriet Klausner
Guest More than 1 year ago
For those of you familar with Logan's writing this is par with his previous novels. Logan's main character, Phil Broker, is asked to assist with a case in the Twin Cities by his former partner from the St.Paul police. Broker must first find an on the run deputy that faces suspension for alcohol abuse on the job. The only problem-- Broker must find out what he knows about a serial killer on the lose before he takes the deputy to rehab. There are enough twists and turns in this tale to keep the average crime reader fascinated. I read an advaned reader's copy and was not disappoited with this novel. With Logan being a cutting edge thriller writer, just getting started with his writing career "Vapor Trail" will not disappoint the readers of Chuck Logan's work.
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