cover image THE PROTECTOR


David Morrell, . . Warner, $25.95 (416pp) ISBN 978-0-446-53068-2

"Packed with state-of-the-art tradecraft relating to escape and evasion, car-fighting, mind control, and sophisticated weaponry," crows the galley copy for this latest thriller by the author of numerous brawny tales from First Blood to Long Lost, "[the book]... takes its place alongside the most innovative thrillers ever written." Well, not really. Innovative this tale of a professional "protector" is not, but the "tradecraft" that Morrell apparently researched in person and reveals here in fiction for the first time makes the novel a groovy bet for armchair tough guys. The plot is standard: Protector Cavanaugh (who uses that one-name pseudonym as camouflage) and his company are hired by scientist Daniel Prescott, purportedly to help him escape from a drug gang that is after the perfectly addictive substance Prescott claims he's created while searching for a cure to addiction. But Prescott is not quite what he seems, and soon he and Cavanaugh, plus some vicious shadowy federal operatives, as well as the FBI, are involved in the sort of cat-and-mouse, stalk-and-attack at which Morrell excels, with the life of Cavanaugh's wife hanging in the balance and upping the suspense ante considerably. As one would expect from a veteran pro like Morrell, there are plenty of twists, several impressive action set pieces and a narrative that speeds like the souped-up Taurus (combining power and anonymity) that Cavanaugh likes to drive. Most notable, though, is the advertised "tradecraft"—from clever ways to modify one's ammo and armor to the very best method of taking out a car you're chasing (strike a rear fender corner with the opposite front corner of your car). Readers should keep in mind that these stunts are performed in the novel by trained professionals and are not to be attempted at home. (May 19)