Wednesday, January 17

Field of Fire by James O. Born

Review by Gloria Feit


Alex "Rocket" Duarte, ambitious ATF agent and explosives specialist [his nickname was given him in high school—he 'took off fast…and couldn't change direction once he got going"] , is asked to head up an investigation into the latest in a series of bombings in disparate locations across the US, which appear to have implications of union harassment.  The latest incident occurs at the site of a migrant labor camp where Duarte tries, and ultimately fails, to arrest a fugitive wanted on an illegal gun trafficking charge.  Another interesting character is Mike Garretti, reluctant hitman, who muses at one point that "for a guy who kills people with bombs, he was way too judgmental." 

Caren Larson is a Dept. of Justice attorney assigned to work with Duarte on the investigation, who must decide whether and to what extent to compromise her ethics on the altar of ambition, something faced by Duarte as well.  The death toll mounts as Alex becomes more and more determined to get to the bottom of what increasingly looks like some sort of conspiracy, with intimidation of union organizers being just a smokescreen.  The suspense mounts steadily, as it becomes difficult to tell the good guys from the bad.


Duarte seemed to this reader to be surprisingly naïve for an experienced agent, another trait he shares with Mr. Larson.  We are reminded several times that he lacks skill in interviewing and reading people.   I thought Duarte's naivete extended as well to his social life, though he becomes a bit more adept at both by novel's end. 


James Born's writing has been compared to that of Elmore Leonard [one of two men to whom Born has dedicated this novel].  I wouldn't go that far, but Duarte's an interesting new protagonist introduced by the author in Field of Fire, and the book is recommended.


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