Cold Barrel Zero

Matthew Quirk. LB/Mulholland, $26 (384p) ISBN 978-0-316-25921-7

Thriller Award–winner Quirk (The 500) goes flat-out explosive in this superior military adventure novel. Ex-Marine John Hayes has assembled a team of special ops agents who have been put on a U.S. government kill list by mistake. In an effort to obtain evidence that will exonerate them, they pull off a spectacular armored car hijacking, seizing a mysterious 1,300-pound crate shipped from the Emirates to Los Angeles. Meanwhile, Thomas Byrne, a former combat medic who served with Hayes, is vacationing in Southern California when he’s arrested on trumped-up charges and brought to meet Colonel Riggs, who’s in charge of the military task force to capture Hayes. Byrne has no idea whether to trust Riggs or his old buddy Hayes, with whom he later connects. The explanation for all the mayhem rests in a war crime that Hayes supposedly committed, but as usual with this author, facts are slippery and doubts abound. There’s plenty of cool cutting-edge technology, but in the end it comes down to action, and the riveting battle scenes are among the best in the business. Readers will look forward to seeing more of the skilled and deadly John Hayes. Agent: Shawn Coyne, Endeavor Agency. (Mar.)