cover image Dark Homecoming

Dark Homecoming

Eric Van Lustbader. Pocket Books, $23 (368pp) ISBN 978-0-671-00329-6

Nicolas Linnear's sidekick, Lew Croaker (an ex-New York cop with a biomechanical hand), takes center stage in Lustbader's latest thriller (after Second Skin), which forsakes ninja action for a murky mix of murder, magic and organ thievery. Recently retired to Florida, Croaker hears from his estranged sister Matty that a drug overdose has sent her daughter Rachel into both a coma and kidney failure. After learning that there are no organs available through legal channels, Croaker is approached by a mysterious lawyer who offers him a perfectly matched kidney--but only if he kills druglord Juan Garcia Barbacena. Involved in this request are the Bonita twins, Heitor and Antonio, who wield the Guarani magic of the black stones. Also lurking about is a group of renegade agents connected to the Anti-Cartel Task Force (for whom Croaker does an odd job now and then)--and therein lies the chief problem with this novel. Not content to combine mysticism with murder, Lustbader folds in enough plot for two novels, including a conflict between the Bonita twins and a government conspiracy that causes Croaker to suspect everyone he knows of betraying him. Instead of energizing the narrative, the subplots, though offering the heady violence Lustbader's fans expect, enervate it. Fewer complications would have picked up the pace, highlighted the characters and given this race-against-time the boost it needs. Author tour. (July)