The Barnes & Noble Review
Great news for suspense fans: Tami Hoag's Kill the Messenger is a fast-paced tale, full of twists and turns and unexpected dangers. This time out, the acclaimed New York Times–bestselling author uses her home turf of Los Angeles as the dramatic backdrop for a riveting tale of a bicycle messenger who picks up a package that marks him for death.
One miserable night, when weather and traffic have made him late enough to be the only messenger his delivery service still has in the field, Jace Damon is sent out on one last job. The weather's lousy, the tip's likely to be the same, and it's been a really long, crappy day…but Jace never expected a routine delivery gig for his low-end lawyer client, Lenny Lowell, to lead to a deadly trap.
His first thought, after he manages to break free, is to return the package to Lenny's office. But that proves impossible. Lenny's been brutally murdered, and all the celebrity that eluded the sleazeball attorney in life has arrived in spades post-mortem. Jace is in a real bind: He's stuck with an envelope full of negatives someone is willing to kill for; he's on the run from a killer; and it won't be hard for cops or crooks to track him down through the messenger service he works for. To boot, his prints are all over the dead man's office.
Although it looks like Jace has elevated isolation and living off the books to an art form, he's not quite the loner misfit he seems. He lives the way he does to support his beloved, brainy brother -- ten-year-old Tyler -- and to protect him from falling into the hands of the faceless bureaucrats at social services. Fearful of losing Tyler, Jace knows he can't trust the cops not to make the easy arrest and put him away for a good long time.
Detective Kev Parker doesn't much care why someone put a scumbag like Lenny Lowell away, but since it happened on his beat, he figures it's his case to close. So why do the boys from the Robbery-Homicide Division want to claim the crime scene for themselves? This is not the sort of high-profile case those hotshots usually work...as Kev knows well, having until recently been one of that elite group. Kev may have been downgraded to babysitting detective trainees and to working cases nobody else wants, but his investigative instincts are still top-notch. Everyone else may like the bike messenger for this crime -- but not Kev, who has found too many fragments of evidence that just don't fit.
Still, like everyone else on both sides of the law, Kev is looking for the messenger. Meanwhile Jace is struggling to neutralize the danger or to find allies who won't betray him. Time is running out. Danger haunts every turn of Jace's wheels. And, despite all his efforts, it's spreading to everyone he touches -- to Madame Chen, the Chinese matriarch who has sheltered his little family; to Eta, the dispatcher who took him under her wing; and to the dead man's daughter, Abby, who Jace figures is the rightful heir to the package -- and to the troubles that go along with it.
Somehow Jace needs to find a way to put on the brakes and to protect himself and his brother, as he plots a route through a deadly maze of blackmail, murder, and betrayal. Sue Stone
Hoag's success (Dark Horse; Guilty as Sin), evidenced once again in this engaging new thriller, is the triumph of substance over style. In a genre overrun with self-conscious jargon, brooding descriptions and fragments masquerading as sentences, her clean, measured prose-full, balanced sentences delivered at a steady pace-doesn't so much create an ominous mood as draw the reader into the worlds of her characters. Here, before they know it, readers are invested in the dilemma of Los Angeles bike messenger Jace (J.C.) Damon, on the run after picking up a package from high-powered attorney Lenny Lowell, who is subsequently murdered. Orphaned Jace lives under society's radar in Chinatown, with his 10-year-old brother, Tyler; his surrogate family includes sassy dispatcher Eta Fitzgerald and the Chen clan, the boy's closest neighbors. Similarly, the police in pursuit are an unconventional, if dysfunctional, family: long-suffering lead detective Kev Parker; his annoying and ambitious new partner, Renee Ruiz; squabbling second-string detectives Jimmy Chew and Bradley Kyle; and coroner Diane Nicholson, who is also Kev's lover. The wild card in the game is Lowell's daughter, Abby, volatile and full of secrets, which Hoag reveals at appropriate intervals. A link to Hollywood provides a burst of fresh energy in the later chapters of this character-driven, solidly constructed thriller. Agent, Andrea Cirillo. (July 6) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
An innocent bike messenger ends up being chased by both the good guys and the bad guys (but which are which?) after the murder of a lawyer for whom he was delivering a package. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Bike messenger gets mixed up in blackmail. Jace Damon's creed: get it there. On time. And if he has to sideswipe a Cadillac, tangle with a security guard, and sneak into an LA office tower filled with suits sneering at his ragged clothes and his beat-up bicycle, so be it. Jace's mother is dead, his father unknown, and he has a little brother to support. Can you spell sympathetic antihero? How about made for the movies? Eta, the sassy black dispatcher (Whoopi Goldberg), sends him out on one last run. The good news: he gets a $20 tip from sleazebag attorney Lenny Lowell, who hands him a wrapped package, contents unknown. The bad news: after Jace leaves, Lenny gets his brains splattered all over the ceiling. Disillusioned, middle-aged detective Kev Parker (George Clooney) and his sexy young trainee, Renee Ruiz (Jennifer Lopez), trade wisecracks amidst the gore and start looking for suspects. Jace (Ethan Hawke/Keanu Reeves/Hugh Jackman) is no slouch at outrunning the law and hides out in his crummy Chinatown apartment, sticking to his second job, shoveling ice at a fish market. His curiosity gets the better of him and he opens the mysterious package to find negatives (what, no digital cameras?) that someone known as Predator would kill to get. No use explaining that to Lenny's daughter Abby (Sandra Bullock), whom Jace happens to meet. Parker and Ruiz dig deeper. Looks like the killing could be somehow connected to Rob Cole (Robert Blake-no, he's already in jail), a down-on-his-luck movie star accused of murdering his rich, frumpy wife (Kathy Bates). Next to die: Eta, a single mother of four. And so it goes, as the action heats up some but not a whole lot. Capably written, though without theedge of Hoag's previous thrillers (Dark Horse, 2002, etc.) and a bit formulaic. (Are there still bike messengers in sprawling, auto-obsessed, freeway-ridden LA?) Still, the appealing cast is a plus. Agent: Andrea Cirillo/Jane Rotrosen Agency
"In a genre overrun with self-conscious jargon, brooding descriptions and fragments masquerading as sentences, her clean, measured prose—full, balanced sentences delivered at a steady pace—doesn’t so much create an ominous mood as draw the reader into the worlds of her characters."—Publishers Weekly"Brisk ... Scandal-prone detective Kev Parker ... gives Kill the Messenger its juice and keeps readers hooked."—San Francisco Chronicle Books