Welcome to Murder by the Book's blog about what we've read recently. You can find our website at www.mbtb.com.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Bricklayer, by Noah Boyd, c2010 ($9.99)

I loved this book.

It was an adventure with puzzles, but then I wasn't reading this for its realistic portrayal or deep social commentary. So it was fun.

There's been a lot of comparison of Steve Vail, the "Bricklayer," to Lee Child's Jack Reacher. True, they are both masters of their own fate and they don't want no stinking bosses, but Vail is way more fun.

Steve Vail used to be an FBI agent. Before he was fired. For insubordination. A few years later the FBI needs him again. They send Deputy Assistant Director Kate Bannon to round him up from Chicago, where he is a bona fide bricklayer. In fact, she has to climb up onto a roof to talk with him while he's buttering up a chimney.

The group Rubaco Pentad is killing enemies and critics of the FBI. In a convoluted, unethical way, that might be a good thing, but the FBI is not amused. Rubaco Pentad wants millions of dollars to stop. The first agent who tried to deliver the money died. The second one disappeared. Uh, oh. Now what do we do? Think, think. Hey, let's use a very smart scapegoat who doesn't work for the FBI anymore. Surprisingly, Steve Vail says yes.

What follows is a clever, albeit overly complicated, series of cat and mouse moves. In its opening gambit with Vail, Rubaco Pentad has Vail in a dark tunnel wired with light-sensitive bombs, punji boards, and no way out. Since that happens in the first third of the book, I don't think I'm spilling too many garbanzos when I tell you that Vail, despite the odds, escapes. (Besides the best part is in how Noah Boyd -- an alias for a former real-life FBI agent -- shows us how.) Vail uses great intuitive and deductive skills to decipher the clues and find the perpetrator. Then another trap is set. Then Vail deciphers more clues. Rinse and repeat.

Great fun.

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