Walsh, Michael. Early Warning. New York: Pinnacle Books, 2010. ISBN 978-0-7860-2043-0.
This is the second novel in the author's “Devlin” series of thrillers. When I read the first, Hostile Intent, I described it as a “tangled, muddled mess” and concluded that the author “may eventually master the thriller, but I doubt I'll read any of the sequels to find out for myself”. Well, I did go ahead and read the next book in the series, and I'm pleased to report that the versatile and accomplished author (see the review of Hostile Intent for a brief biography and summary of his other work) has indeed now mastered the genre and this novel is as tightly plotted, action packed, and bristling with detail as the work of Vince Flynn and Brad Thor.

In this novel, renegade billionaire Emanuel Skorzeny, after having escaped justice for the depredations he unleashed in the previous novel, has been reduced to hiding out in jurisdictions which have no extradition treaty with the United States. NSA covert agent “Devlin” is on his trail when a coordinated series of terrorist attacks strike New York City. Feckless U.S. President Jeb Tyler decides to leave New York's police Counter-Terrorism Unit (CTU) to fend for itself to avoid the débâcle being laid at his feet, but allows Devlin to be sent in covertly to track down and take out the malefactors. Devlin assumes his “angel of death” persona and goes to work, eventually becoming also the guardian angel of the head of CTU, old school second generation Irish cop Francis Xavier Byrne.

Devlin and the CTU eventually help the perpetrators achieve the martyrdom to which they aspire, but not before massive damage is inflicted upon the city and one terrorist goal accomplished which may cause even more in the future. How this fits into Skorzeny's evil schemes still remains to be discovered, as the mastermind's plot seems to involve not only mayhem on the streets of Manhattan but also the Higgs boson.

The action and intrigue are leavened by excursions into cryptography (did you know about the Poe Cryptographic Challenge?), the music of Edward Elgar, and Devlin's developing relationship with the enigmatic Iranian expatriate “Maryam”. This is an entertaining and satisfying thriller, and I'm planning to read the next episode, Shock Warning, in due time.

January 2012 Permalink