Monday, July 11, 2011

"Black Friday" by Alex Kava

College students are planning a stunt at the largest mall in America, carrying jamming devices in their backpacks. Or so they think. They're actually carrying bombs, unwitting pawns in a much larger terrorist plot.

FBI profiler Maggie O'Dell is assigned to the case, where she once again encounters on/off love interest Nick Morelli, who is now the head of the security firm employed by the mall. Further complicating things is the fact her half-brother Patrick Murphy is friends with the college students who carried the backpacks, and has erroneously been identified as a person of interest. He's now on the run, trying to track down another friend - Rebecca Cory - who is being hunted by the real terrorists for knowing too much.

Maggie is contacted by a person connected with the terrorists, who reveals that a second attack is imminent.


Maggie O'Dell is, in my opinion, one of the most useless FBI Special Agents I have ever encountered in fiction. Her track record is terrible. In "A Perfect Evil" and "A Necessary Evil", the killer eluded capture. In "The Soul Catcher" the killer randomly decided to kill themselves, despite Maggie being at their complete mercy. In "At The Stroke Of Madness" and "Exposed", Maggie is knocked unconscious by the killer and nearly killed, needing somebody else to rescue her. Only "Split Second" seems to involve Maggie actually nailing her opponent, as "Black Friday" once again has the main antogonist evading capture.

Can this stupid woman do anything right?

The book fails in almost every other area as well. Plot-wise, it's very thin. Kava suggests the mastermind is John Doe #2, who was spotted by several witnesses during the investigation into the Oklahoma City bombing. Several conspiracy theories exist regarding this possible third terrorist. It's an intriguing theory and Kava fails to do anything with it. Despite some rumblings of Government influence and involvement in the terrorist attack, the mastermind - named Robert Asante here - is never given a clear motive as to why he's doing what he's doing. He's just there, plotting an evil attack and - because Maggie is such a tool - getting away with it. A completely uninteresting, personality-free villian. Furthermore, no definitive answers are given as to the how and why of the attack. Just a lot of suppositions.

Romance-wise, it's a washout. I'm not terribly bothered by that, but this is published by MIRA, who specialise in romantic-based suspense. It also begs the question as to why Nick Morelli is even here. He started off as a small-town sheriff when the series began, became a prosecutor and is now the head of a security firm! It's ridiculous! These job changes are solely to keep him in the series, but his relationship with Maggie is never explored, resolved or moved along.

I don't want to read about an FBI agent who can't sort out her lovelife or do her job even halfway competently. I don't want to hand over my money to an author who clearly doesn't care about what she's writing. Underplotted and confused, this is the final black mark against this mediocre author's name.

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