cover image Spooker


Dean Ing. Forge, $23.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-312-85740-0

A ``spooker,'' as explained in this absorbing new thriller from Ing, is a getaway kit prepared by a spy, to be used in the event he must disappear, even from his employers. The well-equipped spooker may contain jewels, cash, false ID and other kinds of treasure. When a spy and his spooker disappear, the assumption is that he has opted out-but maybe he's dead, a victim of a very specialized robber. When Gary Landis of the Drug Enforcement Agency becomes the target of a particularly malevolent team of criminals, his mentor, Swede Halvorsen, who's a retired LAPD cop, and Swede's granddaughter Janelle jump into the fray to set things right. Ing's earlier novels (Butcher Bird, etc.) imaginatively described the special world of experimental aircraft and weaponry. Here he enters new territory, both geographically (California's Central Valley from Bakersfield to Fresno, detailed with accurate local color) and thematically, proving that he is a master of ground-based spy novels as well as of high-in-the-sky techno-thrillers. The high-tech touches that do appear, including an intriguing ultra-light aircraft, are pure Ing, who seems to have relished creating the peculiar world of his two monstrous villains. Tinged with a sense that life is bittersweet, this is a welcome offering from an always entertaining author. (Dec.)