Tim Downs, Author . WestBow $19.99 (391p) ISBN 978-1-59554-022-5

After strong debut and sophomore novels (Shoofly Pie ; Chop Shop ), Downs hits his stride in this delightful faith-based thriller. FBI Special Agent Nathan Donovan acts fearlessly, but he's haunted by an event in his past that drives his reckless behavior. A puzzling murder case in which thousands of fleas are released in a room leads to a cameo appearance by forensic entomologist Dr. Nick Polchak, the Bug Man from Downs's earlier novels. The fleas are the ideal vehicle for bubonic plague, and New York is the perfect target. Things get dicey when a Chinese octogenarian known as Li has information that could lead to solving the case—if Li doesn't seek his own revenge first. More complications arise when Donovan's ex-wife gets involved, and we discover the roots of Donovan's anger and fear. As the story unfolds, Downs evenhandedly dispenses humor, interesting technical details and the trademark "ick" factor that characterizes his previous books. He throws in enough surprises and unusual events to keep the story fresh, and he's learned how to hold a novel together through the closing pages. The real plagues, Downs suggests, are fear, hatred and a thirst for revenge, and he manages to convey the importance of forgiveness and reconciliation without too much sermonizing. This is Downs's best book to date. (Jan. 10)

Reviewed on: 10/24/2005
Release date: 01/01/2006
Genre: Fiction
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