Black Mountain

Les Standiford, Author Putnam Adult $23.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-399-14584-1
In 1991, before Standiford launched his popular and acclaimed John Deal thriller series (Presidential Deal, etc.), he published Spill, an undistinguished novel about environmental disaster in Yellowstone. Now he's written another non-Deal novel. It, too, is set in Wyoming, in the Absaroka wilderness, and, though it boasts vigorous writing with lots of action, it, like Spill, lacks the pungent edge of the Deal stories. Standiford's new hero is Richard Corrigan, a NYC transit cop who takes down a homeless man apparently threatening New York governor Fielding Dawson. In reward, Dawson invites Corrigan to join him and 15 others, including a film crew and pretty USA Magazine reporter Dara Wylie, on a highly publicized foray into the Absaroka. In Wyoming, meanwhile, a pair of hired killers, one man, one woman, are--for reasons revealed only at novel's end--plotting to wipe out the Dawson expedition. They begin by blowing up the plane that deposits the party deep in the mountains. As expedition members struggle by foot back to civilization, they die a few at a time--two are caught in an avalanche, several tumble into a gorge when a bridge collapses. Each mishap seems accidental, but soon Corrigan and the other survivors suspect they're being stalked. More are murdered during a blizzard, leading to a final confrontation between the killers and Corrigan, and to a poorly contrived twist ending. Standiford makes terrific use of his spectacular setting, and his characters carry some depth despite their familiarity, but the plotline is so linear--now one death, now another--that it approaches tedium, despite tense sequences. This is a respectable thriller, but for Standiford fans it's only a so-so deal. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 01/31/2000
Release date: 02/01/2000
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