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By Jeff Abbot

Dutton, 2005 ($23.95)
ISBN: 0-525-94904-6

Reviewed by Shirley H. Wetzel

When Evan Casher's mother called him early that morning, the young documentary filmmaker had no idea his solid, dependable life was about to be turned upside down. His mother pleaded with him to come home, ask no questions, just leave Houston and come to Austin as fast as he could.Leaving a message for Carrie, his new love, he packed up his film gear and hit the road. What he found when he entered his parents' home shook him to his core. His mother had been viciously murdered, the house ransacked.In her room he found half-packed suitcases, including one with clothes for him.She'd obviously meant for them to run, but from what, and why?Things quickly went from bad to worse, as his mother's killers returned.

Evan was saved from certain death by a stranger claiming to know his parents, who told the young man his only hope of survivalwas to go with him. Thus began a journey through a minefield of deception and intrigue stretching from the Texas Hill Country to New Orleans, across the ocean to London, back again to Florida, with stops along the way in Virginia and Ohio.

Evan became the prize in a tug-of-war between factions of the legal system, the government, and agents with unknown agendas, with the line between who was what blurring with mind-numbing rapidity. Was Gabriel, the rescuer, really who he claimed to be, an ex-CIA rogue agent who wanted to bring down the people who killed Evan's mother and held his father, a computer scientist, hostage?Or were Jargo and his evil-tempered son Deez really the good guys, who just wanted Evan to return something his mother stole from them.Was his father a hostage or part of a global spy ring?And what about Carrie, who'd come into his life from out of the blue a few months ago and captured his heart.Did she really love him, or was she part of the whole monstrous nightmare?

To save his own life and that of the woman he loved and his father Evan had to use every skill he possessed, finding himself capable of things he could never have imagined before that terrible morning in Austin.There are so many twists and turns in this story that you may need Dramamine to get through it, but it's worth it.This action-packed thriller is a long way from Abbott's earlier, gentler mysteries, and may be his breakthrough novel.The film rights have been optioned, so we may be seeing Evan on the big screen.

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