This second outing for Noah Boyd's Steve Vail has the witty dialogue and fast pace of The Bricklayer, but lacks a compelling storyline. There is enough here to keep the reader interested, but not enough to really thrill and confound. There is no, "Oh wow!" moment and the relationship between Vail and FBI Assistant Director Kate Bannon it more prominent here. That does lend for greater character depth, but mostly it was just played with in dialogue, which frankly got a bit contrived in places. The pacing is fast and the whole thing is very readable and pleasing, just not very satisfying.
Despite his breakup with Kate, Vail flies to DC to escort her to a New Year's Eve party. The uncomfortable reunion is broken up by a call from a former agent turned sheriff in VA with a stolen child. Vail and Kate detour and naturally, Vail finds the child. He's in DC just long enough to get called in by the FBI on a problem that has confounded them. They had a source inside the Russian Embassy that has disappeared. They need Vail to bring his special out of the box thinking to bear. He turns them down until the Director tells him about Kate's near death that many in the FBI believed to be a suicide attempt. Vail takes the job.
From there, the plot runs the usual pattern of FBI institutional interference with Vail's "Just get it done" technique. But Vail is so intent on following the clues, he fails to see the bigger picture. A fellow agent from the Detroit FBI office, Luke Bursaw, is now in DC and is working on a missing agent case and asks for Steve's help, which he gets. The missing agent befriended Luke's sister, so he has personal reasons in additional to professional ones. They find a serial killer, but not what happened to the agent.
Boyd ties up the various threads in the end, but I found the plot far-fetched, it lacked substance and was overall, somewhat unsatisfying. I did like the extra twists at the end that are becoming Boyd's trademark. It's a C+ 3.3* star read.
If you enjoy Lee Child, you will like this book, second in the Bricklayer series. Unfortunately the author has died so this is probably also last in the series. Modern day technology makes it possible to gather huge amounts of information. In both books, Steve Vail forcues on how to use some of that information to move things forward in unsuspected ways. We lost this author much too soon!