cover image MAN DOWN


John Douglas, David Terrenoire, . . Atria, $24 (336pp) ISBN 978-0-671-02392-8

The midair explosion of a plane reportedly carrying the First Lady gets Douglas's sequel to Broken Wings off to a galloping start. Government officials hastily shoo swashbuckling hero Jake Donovan, a former FBI profiler and acclaimed nonfiction author, away from the scene of the plane crash, and before Jake can raise a fuss, he and his crack Broken Wings team (an independently funded cadre of retired elite agents) get an assignment much closer to home. Millicent DeVries, their wealthy benefactress, asks them to investigate the North Carolina murder of prominent research scientist William Rush. DeVries's married niece Janice is missing and may have been sleeping with Rush. The DeVries case looks like as if it might lead them back to the plane explosion, but the work of the team keeps being disrupted. DeVries family infighting threatens the Wings' funding. Jake's lover, Katie McManus, a crime scene investigator and Broken Wings member, inconveniently decides to cool their affair. And while Jake has heretofore had a good relationship with ex-wife Toni and their two children, Toni goes ballistic over the high-profile nature of the case. Her fears turn out to be justified: before long, their son, Eric, is kidnapped. With this sophomore mystery, Douglas drifts away from the sober, methodical, intricate presentation of forensic facts that won his first novel and earlier nonfiction well-deserved acclaim. Here, the plot is cluttered and not terribly suspenseful, with a resolution as neat as it is predictable. Broken Wings fans may feel this sequel is rushed and disappointing. (Nov. 1)

Forecast:Douglas's longtime co-writer Mark Olshaker is not credited for this novel, which may have something to do with the dip in quality. Douglas will have to convince fans he can go it alone to keep this series viable.