Season of Fear

Season of Fear

In the prologue of this fast-paced first in a new crime series from Edgar-finalist Freeman (The Cold Nowhere), an assassin fatally shoots Birch Fairmont, a congressional candidate from the newly formed Common Way Party, and two others at a political fund-raiser in Lake Wales, Fla. Ten years later, Birch’s widow, Diane Fairmont, is running for governor of Florida as a member of the same third party. When evidence surfaces that Diane might be a killer’s target, Candice Dean, the executive director of a foundation affiliated with the Common Way Party, hires detective Cab Bolton to look into the earlier unsolved murders, but she balks when his investigation doubles back on Diane’s relationship with Birch and her drug-addict son. Meanwhile, campaign staffer Peach Piper, whose boyfriend and coworker was found dead two weeks earlier, is also worried about an assassination

attempt, and starts askinguncomfortable questions. Right-wing extremists, drug dealers, and political opponents are all credible potential culprits. Only some overblown dialogue mars a taut thriller that’s at once a whodunit and a who-will-do-it. Agent: Deborah Schneider, Gelfman Schneider Literary Agents.

In his acclaimed mystery "The Bone House," Minnesota author Brian Freeman ventured south of Lake Superior to establish credentials for a new character, Cab Bolton, a detective in the vein of Elizabeth George's Inspector Thomas Lynley — suave, sexy, smart and the product of an auspicious upbringing. It doesn't matter that Cab is the son of Hollywood royalty rather than the British peerage — a kind of noblesse oblige shapes Cab's choices. "Season of Fear" is Freeman's second book to feature Cab, and it's a highly entertaining mystery about personal legacies and the politics of privilege.

Cab is comfortable in his skin and his expensive suits, but he's restless in his career. He has "bounced from the FBI to the police to private investigative work." In this novel he's on his own, "digging into a 10-year-old crime after a massive investigation turned up nothing," and may have put the wrong man in jail. The legacies of this crime are complicated, in part because Cab's celebrity mother, Tarla, and her closest friend, Diane Fairmont, a candidate for governor in Florida, were key witnesses.

I'm thrilled to have Cab back between the covers of a book, but he's not the only one driving this story. Many of the plot's revelations are in the hands of another character, Peach Piper, a twenty-something opposition researcher. Peach is not comfortable in her own skin. "Desperately shy," she "like[s] watching people, studying them … listening to them." She lurks in the shadows recording conversations to help the Common Way party and Diane's political campaign. Peach is as intriguing as the girl with the dragon tattoo, but with less rage, fewer piercings and no lovers (she's celibate).

Which is not true of Cab, who generates quite a bit of heat in this area, especially with his partner in crime and in bed, Lala, a detective who's "Catholic, Cuban and Republican" and not a favorite of Cab's mother. Unfortunately, Lala's role in this novel is mostly to service Cab's sexual needs. While the sexual tension (and the sex scenes) between Freeman's main characters sizzles, I hope Lala gets to work on the case next time and not just on Cab.

Set in central Florida, the novel's suspense heightens as a literal tropical storm barrels toward the region while Cab tries to shelter everyone he loves from the terrible wrath of a metaphorical one.