Detective Sergeant Mulheisen, titular hero of Jackson's freewheeling Mulheisen series (Man with an Axe, etc.), is all but absent from this ninth installment. Occupying center stage are his nemeses, freelance pistoleros Joe Service and Helen Sedlacek, this time caught in a web of double- and triple-crosses between secret U.S. intelligence cabals and deep-cover agents from the former Yugoslavia. Joe and Helen, once employed by the mob, are now working for a former American colonel who runs a vigilante group called the Lucani. Composed of intelligence and military personnel fed up with the sluggishness of governments and tribunals, the Lucani exact violent justice on international criminals. Following the disappearance of Lucani agent "Franko" (who recently penetrated a Serbian drug cartel), the colonel recruits Joe and Helen to chase the erstwhile agent from Kosovo to the Serbian community in Butte, Mont. Complicating matters is a trigger-happy Serbian-American thug named Bazok (the "Badger"), who may be a cartel assassin or a rival deep-cover agent. Joe is more interested in retiring to a quiet corner of bucolic Montana so that he and Helen can enjoy quality time together than in finding Franko, but he takes notice when the irrepressible Badger shows up and starts blasting his way through Butte, also on Franko's trail. Joe, Helen and their ilk have too much fun with sex, drugs, guns and clichéd banter to really get down to the business of international crime fighting. Without the counterbalancing weight of Mulheisen, the larks overwhelm Jackson's intricate suspense plot. (June)
Forecast:Jackson has built up a solid following, but the absence of Mulheisen may affect his numbers this time out.
Release date: 06/01/2001