cover image Middle of Nowhere

Middle of Nowhere

Ridley Pearson. Hyperion, $23.95 (416pp) ISBN 978-0-7868-6563-5

""Blue Flu"" is running through the ranks of the Seattle Police Department, and life's not easy for the few cops who've chosen to buck the union and remain on the job. Among them is Lt. Lou Boldt, the relentless crime fighter and star of Pearson's outstanding series, whose loyalty to law and order tends to suck him into more than his share of life's complications. With 90% of the force calling in sick, Boldt has to shoulder an enormous caseload, yet a strange series of burglaries worries him the most. During one of the hits, a strikebreaking police officer was savagely attacked, her neck broken. When two other officers are mauled in similar fashion, and Boldt himself is badly beaten, a sickening prospect emerges: the cops who are on strike are retaliating against the cops still on the job. Yet it may not be that simple. Some of the crimes could be the handiwork of Bryce Abbot Flek, a crafty career criminal who has devised an ingenious method of coaxing people out of the homes he wants to burglarize. Along the way, Flek has also developed a searing hatred for Boldt, whom he holds responsible for the death of his brother, who was killed in prison shortly after a visit from the lieutenant. Pearson (The Pied Piper) never quite masters the intersection of these two disparate story lines, yet they eventually converge in a well-devised finale. This seventh Boldt thriller packs all of Pearson's usual wallop: it boasts simmering suspense, a plot with a level of detail that comes only from painstaking research, and dynamic chemistry between Boldt and his colleagues and family. Somewhat less effective is Pearson's latest stab at working current events into his books. His detailed explanation of how cell phones can be effective police tools fails to captivate and slows the story's otherwise torrid pace. 125,000 first printing; $300,000 ad/promo; Literary Guild, Doubleday Book Club and Mystery Guild selections; audio rights to Brilliance; 11-city author tour. (June)