HOTWIRE

Written by Alex Kava

Review written by Carole Tyrell

Carole Tyrrell worked in the theatre for nearly 10 years and was always fascinating by the way death and the supernatural formed many of the greatest and most enduring works. She has read crime fiction for many years and enjoys the broad range of the genre.


HOTWIRE
Sphere
RRP: £13.99
Released: 21st July 2011
Pbk

This is the ninth novel in the popular series featuring Special FBI Agent, Maggie O’Dell and is set in the bleak, under populated stretches of Nebraska.

It begins in it’s National Forest on a night in which a group of seven teenagers decide to go partying in its dark depths.  One of them, Dawson Hayes, the self-confessed geek of the group, has brought something special to the party, a Taser gun.  Johnny B is the jock on his way out of town on a scholarship and the others are along for the thrills of salvia and prescription medicines.  However, Dawson will be one of only two survivors from the group that night. High on salvia, he sees two red eyes watching him and he aims his Taser at them before a massive jolt of electricity makes him fall into the embrace of electrified barbed wire which is the Hotwire of the title. 

Maggie O’Dell and State Patrol Investigator, Donny Fergussen, are out in nearby fields investigating cattle mutilations.  These have been happening locally for some weeks and are skilfully done by someone who wants specific parts.  It’s a strange area between two Air Force installations with reports of mysterious lights in the sky.  A local UFO watcher, Wesley Stotter, with his own radio show is also prowling the neighbourhood watching the skies for his audience.  It sounds like an X File which is namechecked.  But a 911 call brings Maggie and Donny to the forest and the teenagers.  Two are already dead and the other  five, including Dawson, are badly injured.    Maggie is cursing her boss, Kuntz, who is continually sending her on wild goose chases but this isn’t one.

Meanwhile, her boyfriend, Col Ben Platt is meeting Roger Bix at a local diner to discuss how to deal with an outbreak of food poisoning at a Virginia high school.  They are both high-ups in US government infection control and worked together on an Ebola epidemic.  Another food poisoning incident at a local school soon develops into something serious and it may not be accidental.  The surviving teenagers are dying and Dawson is told by an unwanted visitor to his hospital bed that he may wish that he hadn’t survived.

I found the major plot elements timely and credible. After all, where does your food come from? The pace of the book doesn’t flag throughout and Kavas keeps all the subplots moving briskly along to a believable and chilling climax.  I liked her handling of them and there was one involving the teenagers which I didn’t expect.

Although it wasn’t really to my taste I appreciated Kavas’ deft handling of the characters and their dynamics to each other and how they impacted on the plot.  Although this was my first Maggie O’Dell book I didn’t have any problems with picking up on her backstory and Kavas didn’t feel the need to hammer it home..  For me, this was really a beach read but Maggie O’Dell fans they will enjoy it immensely. And yes, I did spot Kavas’ trademark – Rita the waitress.

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