Thursday, January 22, 2009

Out at Night-Susan Arnout Smith

Out at Night
Susan Arnout Smith
Minotaur, Mar 2009, $25.95
ISBN 9780312368340

In Palm Springs, California, at an international agricultural symposium, protesters peacefully march against genetically modified crops. That is no violence until someone shoots an arrow into the chest of Professor Thaddeus Bartholomew. The assailant quickly follows up, while people watch in horror, by pouring gasoline on the professor and igniting it with a match; but before his death Thaddeus sends a text message: "FIND GRACE DESCANSO."

The FBI suspects the violent group Radical Damage killed the professor to cast a dark shadow on the conference and most likely to plan an even more ferocious assault during the closing ceremony. Grace a San Diego police crime lab technician is yanked back from her vacation with her daughter by her FBI Agent Uncle Pete. As the niece works with her uncle investigating the homicide and potential follow-up terrorism, another murder occurs and while the moment of truth draws closer, there remains too many suspects including Grace’s pregnant cousin to prevent an expected tragedy.

OUT AT NIGHT, the second Descanso police procedural (see THE TIMER GAME) is an exciting thriller from the moment an expecting to die Bartholomew sends his text message and never slows down until the final confrontation with agricultural terrorists. The gripping story line hooks the audience, but never quite explains why the professor picked Descanso and waits until the latter half of the tale to provide the actual terrorist threat and the rationale. Still fans will enjoy this enjoyable family affair.

Harriet Klausner