cover image THE WAKE-UP


Robert Ferrigno, . . Pantheon, $23.95 (272pp) ISBN 978-0-375-42249-2

A minor matter of airport rudeness sets off a major killing spree in Ferrigno's seventh novel, an overplotted affair that features a battle between a former espionage agent, a figure from his spooky past and two L.A. drug dealers. When Frank Thorpe sees a hard-charging businessman humiliate a young Latino peddler at LAX airport, he decides to teach the jerk a lesson. And after using his spy skills to find out that the man is an art dealer, Thorpe sets up a forgery scam that gets the dealer accused of selling phony Mayan art to an ambitious, nouveau riche L.A. couple. Unfortunately for Thorpe, the female half of the couple, the delightfully bitchy Missy Riddenhauser, becomes furious after a local gossip columnist embarrasses her by exposing the incident, and she quickly talks her husband, Clark, a former surfer turned designer drug dealer, into going after Thorpe. The plotting and character writing remains sharp and clever through the first half, and the art angle makes the novel read like a cross between a Ludlum thriller and one of Patricia Highsmith's Ripley novels. But the plotting careens off track when Thorpe needlessly gets involved with the cartoonish thugs who handle the violent end of Clark's drug business, and those scenes dull the impact of Thorpe's final showdown with a mysterious, dangerous figure from the agent's past known as the Engineer. Agent, Mary Evans. (Aug. 3)