Unveiling Truths, Connecting Communities

Unveiling Truths, Connecting Communities

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Photo Credit: Unsplash.com
Photo Credit: Unsplash.com

By: Seraphina Quinn

“Dad, you need to see this,” Danny Logan said to his father.

So opens LEAVE NO TRACE (Minotaur, 352 pages, $28.00). Moments later, the Statue of Liberty is toppled in a massive blast, and one of the year’s best thrillers so far is off to an equally explosive start.

You hear the term “gamechanger” getting thrown around a lot these days. But when it comes to entertainment fiction, LEAVE NO TRACE is just that, a seismic shift of a thriller that mixes relentless page-turning suspense with a heavy dose of reality.

That’s because the villains are culled not from the fanciful Bondian brand born of Russian spies and foreign entanglements but from within our own borders and, more to the point, our own hearts and minds. Their deadly plot to murder millions of Americans to first destabilize and then replace the sitting United States government opens with these ultra-right-wing nationalists laying waste to the Statue of Liberty itself, the country’s most iconic symbol.

And that’s the point. Before you can rebuild, you have to break down, which forms the heart of LEAVE NO TRACE. Good thing debut author A. J. Landau (actually, a pseudonym for bestselling author Jon Land and coauthor Jeff Ayers) serves up a pair of stalwart heroes more than equal to the task. First and foremost, Michael Walker is a special agent with the investigative arm of the National Park Service, the Investigative Services Branch (ISB). He also lost his left foot in a shootout that claimed the life of his park ranger wife three years earlier, so it’s fair to say he now wears his grief in the form of a prosthetic every day. Walker is joined by FBI chief Gina Delgado, who doubles as the book’s much-needed demolitions expert from her experience serving with a Special Forces “A” Team in Iraq. This was after she learned her stock and trade from her construction manager’s father as a kid, playing with blasting caps instead of toys.

It falls on Walker and Delgado to stop the maelstrom of destruction spreading across the country. Independence Hall, the Gateway Arch, as well as both Wind Cave and Zion National Parks all face devastating attacks aimed at bringing the country to its knees. And we’re not giving much away by mentioning that Walker and the book’s obsessively crazed villain, who calls himself Jeremiah, share a deadly past thanks to an incident that has come to define them both. Jeremiah shares the stage with former Army general Archibald Terrell, aka “General Terror,” who is the perfect moniker for a man who intends to visit that very terror on the home front.

LEAVE NO TRACE winds its way from coast to coast as the bad guys lay waste to icon after icon, even as Landau lays waste to his competition in the field. Brad Thor, Mark Greaney, Brad Taylor, and the late great Vince Flynn have nothing on him when it comes to horrific plots aimed at thrusting a dagger into the nation’s heart. The difference here is that the action never ventures beyond our shores, driving home the point that the most dangerous enemies we face are coming from the inside instead of the out.

People read thrillers to be entertained, not scared. Yet Landau’s inaugural effort actually manages to achieve a deft balance of both. LEAVE NO TRACE changes the stakes, even as it changes the game, a literary earthquake that measures a ten on the Richter scale. The aftershocks just keep coming, leaving us holding onto our chairs for dear life with one hand while the other ferociously flips the pages of this pop culture masterpiece.


Published By: Aize Perez

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