cover image The Inner Sanctum

The Inner Sanctum

Stephen Frey. Dutton Books, $23.95 (336pp) ISBN 978-0-525-94206-1

The far-reaching clout of the military-industrial complex doesn't daunt the female IRS agent who is the protagonist of Frey's (The Vulture Fund) fast-paced third thriller. A time-delayed e-mail sent by her IRS boss after his murder urges Jesse Hayes to continue his investigation of campaign funding fraud by Senate candidate Elbridge Coleman. Coleman, Jesse learns, was hand-picked by the old-boy network to unseat Maryland's black incumbent, Malcolm Walker, a highly vocal advocate of reducing defense spending. Jesse calls on old boyfriend Todd Colton, a PI with a gambling habit, for help, but Todd's debt to a Mafia loan shark cuts his value. She gains a seeming ally in handsome David Mitchell, the protege of Elizabeth Gilman, founder of Baltimore's hottest investment house, though he has ties to the power group behind Coleman. A mole on a megabucks defense project leaks information about the powerful group behind Coleman, and Todd and David seems to help Jesse stay one step ahead of the killer as she looks for the hard evidence that would justify calling in bigger guns. Ultimately, however, she is betrayed by Todd just as she discovers that David's firm is linked to the Coleman campaign and the defense project they were tracking down. Not knowing whom to trust, Jesse must find a way to undo a nearly perfect setup by the men in power. Although the action sometimes outpaces credibility, bank executive Frey knows finance. His convincing portrayal of the lure of easy money floats this novel over occasional rough patches. (July)