The contemporary political thriller is a slave to innumerable clichés, most of which are somewhat subtly subverted by David Rollins’ entertaining, but traditional HARD RAIN. Now in paperback, it’s the third in a series of novels that have received some acclaim from the airport- and beach-reader crowd.
He’s got specialized military knowledge (check); a hard-driving, wisecracking bear of a man with a heart of gold (check); an equally wise, but softer female interest who goes back and forth between loving and despising the bear (check); the possibility of a mole (check); some measure of shame that can be tied to the U.S. government (check — in this instance, depleted uranium plays that particular villain); and an improbably vast Bondian scheme that would require immense wealth and influence, with an outcome that will change the world forever (check and double-check).
While that’s all to be expected, it cannot be argued that Rollins is a dull writer. No, his story clips along at a tremendous pace, and while we don’t necessarily care about the somewhat forgettable characters, the plot is intriguing. An Air Force attaché is found in his Turkish home completely dismembered, his bones separated one from the other and laid out as if in an exploded diagram. Twelve of his 206 bones are missing, and sure enough, they begin to be found only at the scenes of other horrific murders.
Special investigators for the U.S. Air Force Vin Cooper and Anna Masters are called in to solve the crime, and they predictably run afoul of interoffice politics, a secret so vast it will bring down governments (yet another requirement for the contemporary thriller), and their own predilection for getting caught in situations where it seems only their deaths can result.
But you know what you’re getting into when you choose to read one of these books, and Rollins is ahead of most of the other practitioners by far. There’s also quite a bit of intriguing information about depleted uranium and its byproducts in this book, which he imparts smoothly without interrupting the story (unlike say, Michael Crichton’s execrable STATE OF FEAR, which allowed his research notes to destroy the tale). It’s in the Tom Clancy vein, but a bit more fun. And it’s absolutely perfect for that long plane trip or a relaxing read on a sunlit beach. —Mark Rose