Behind the well-known U.S. security organizations— the FBI and CIA among them—lies a heavily guarded, anonymous government agency dedicated to intelligence surveillance and to a highly specialized brand of citizen protection.
Shock waves of alarm ripple through the clandestine agency when Washington, D.C., police detective Ryan Kessler inexplicably becomes the target of Henry Loving, a seasoned, ruthless “lifter” hired to obtain information using whatever means necessary. While Loving is deft at torture, his expertise lies in getting an “edge” on his victim—leverage—usually by kidnapping or threatening family until the “primary” caves under pressure.
The job of keeping the Kessler family alive falls to a man named Corte, a senior federal protection officer known as a “shepherd.” Uncompromising, relentlessly devoted to protecting those in his care and a passionate board game aficionado, he applies brilliant gaming strategy to his work. For Corte, the reappearance of Loving—the man who, six years earlier, had tortured and killed someone close to him—is also an opportunity to avenge his friend’s death. The assignment soon escalates into a fast-paced duel between Corte and Loving, a dangerous volley of wits and calculated risks.
As he shepherds the Kesslers to a concealed safe house, Corte must anticipate Loving’s every step as the lifter moves in on his prey, and with the help of razor-sharp investigator Claire DuBois and his longtime ally, FBI agent Paul Fredericks, pinpoint which of Kessler’s seemingly insignificant cases has triggered Loving’s return. As the team digs deeper, each of the Kesslers comes under close scrutiny, and in captivity their family bonds are stretched to the breaking point—as the lifter draws near, Corte must ultimately choose between protecting his charges and exposing them to a killer in the name of long-awaited revenge.
Thriller Award–winner Deaver (The Bodies Left Behind) unveils some nifty new tricks in this edge-of-your-seat thriller that pits two worthy antagonists against each other. Henry Loving, "a lifter," specializes in extracting information from human targets by any means necessary (i.e., torture). Corte, "a shepherd," is an agent in the Strategic Protection Department of a secret government agency normally assigned to protect high-profile targets. An intercepted communication identifies Loving as the lifter ordered to target Ryan Kessler, a Washington, D.C., metro detective. While Corte attempts to protect Kessler's family and identify the "primary," Loving's employer, Loving seeks the edge to get the information he needs to extract. Corte, a board game aficionado and game theory student, and Loving are well matched, sharing a history that ups the stakes and makes the contest personal. Deaver's first first-person narrator, Corte, is an exciting new weapon in the author's arsenal of memorable characters. (Nov.) (c)
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This stand-alone thriller by the author of the Lincoln Rhyme and Kathryn Dance novels introduces Corte, an officer of the Strategic Protection Department, an arm of a larger government agency tasked with protecting individuals who have been targeted for abduction or murder (among other crimes). Henry Loving, a brutal “lifter” who specializes in “physical extraction” of information, has apparently targeted a cop, Ryan Kessler. The details are shaky: Corte’s people don’t know why Kessler has been targeted or what information Henry Loving is after. But Corte must do everything in his power to protect Kessler. This is a slightly unusual novel for Deaver. It’s a prolonged cat-and-mouse game—a familiar format to the author’s fans—but the novel is relatively free of Deaver’s customary neck-wrenching plot reversals. He’s got a few tricks up his sleeve, but readers expecting the kind of jaw-dropping, out-of-left-field twists he specializes in might feel a bit cheated. Make no mistake: this is a fine thriller with strong characters and a compelling story. But Deaver devotees need to be forewarned not to look for any showstopping reverse pivots. --David Pitt