|The small African country of Camgeria is divided by the ongoing war
between the establishment and the rebel guerillas. The war escalates
by the easy access of weapons to both sides. One man, known as “The
Siberian” is selling to both sides, thereby draining the economy of
its money and natural resources. Reed and Rand McCree, who are in
country and loosely connected to St. Kilda, take a side trip to
obtain photographs of the never photographed Siberian in the act of
exchanging guns for money and coltan (a valuable mineral used in cell phones and computer chips). They are discovered and The Siberian kills Reed while they are escaping.
Five years later, Rand is living as an artist while still grieving
for his identical twin, and the Siberian has become Bertone, world
oil broker and a very wealthy man, who still brokers terrorism in its
many forms. Such wealth garners him the services of a private
banker. Employed by a southwest Arizona Bank, Kayla Shaw is the
bank officer assigned to be at his beck and call.
St. Kilda, constructed by Lowell in a prior novel is an organization
peopled by bright operatives, struggling to stay within a legal
defensible position while combating the malevolence governments are
constrained to fight.
St. Kilda has been on The Siberian's trail these last years, and has
interested a “tell all” news show in doing a special on the wealthy
Bertone, knowing that Rand McCree still has the negatives of the
Siberian's picture. To bring it together, they need Rand to verify
Bertone as the Siberian.
Handily, Mrs. Bertone is buying her way to social respectability by
the funding of the arts and is participating in a festival by
sponsoring a contest in which an artist has two hours to
paint a scene on their ranch with generous prize money attached. St.
Kilda persuades Rand to enter in order to catch a glimpse of Bertone.
Meanwhile Kayla has begun to see the very ugly side of Bertone, when
required to deposit a twenty million dollar check from an unverified
source into his account. Enter the complexities of banking laws as
they evolved post 9/11.Her boss orders her to make the deposit
telling her that he will take care of it. Bertone requires that Kayla be present at the contest as the banker with the money, and it is here that Kayla and Rand meet.
Hours later as Kayla reluctantly heads to a back area where Bertone
commanded her to meet him, someone tries to kidnap her. The attempt
fails due to her quick actions and Rand's rescue. They flee together
and Rand takes them to the safe harbor of St. Kilda. Here Kayla meets
John Neto, the leader from Camgeria who has employed St. Kilda to try
and recover some of his country's money from Bertone. When Kayla finds the amount she deposited has now doubled she knows she is being set up to take the fall.
Willingly Kayla joins forces with St. Kilda and a race is on to stop
the transaction that this money will no doubt fund. Rand is drawn
back from the world of the nonliving but existing and Kayla finally finds in Rand what she did not know existed.
Interspersed with understandable, but complex banking regulations,
and peopled with the usual cast of ugly violent thugs, Lowell weaves
an all too credible plot escalating in tension with time that is running out.
In a world where most people can be bought, Lowell takes her usual
potshots at the FBI, fettered by rigidity, and who have to also
answer to politicians, corrupt or not. Her antidote for this is her
intrepid St. Kilda agency.
Using characters from other novels adds the dimension of familiarity
to fans, while her character development occurs during the slow
periods of her rhythmic pacing. Dialog vacillates from the witty to
the irreverent providing the backbone for yet another Elizabeth Lowell keeper novel.