BOOKS: ‘Final Finesse’

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FINAL FINESSE
By Karna Small Bodman
Tom Doherty/Forge Books, $26.95, 336 pages
REVIEWED BY PETER HANNAFORD

“Verisimilitude” is a word often heard in English literature classes. It means “the appearance of being true or real” and Karna Small Bodman’s new novel has it in abundance. This is her third thriller based in Washington, and it will keep readers turning the pages just as much as did her first two books. The author knows her setting very well. She held a senior position at the National Security Council in the Reagan years and still lives part of each year in Washington. She knows the capital’s geography, its work patterns and, most of all, its tribal rituals.

She knows a lot more. As in her previous books, “Checkmate” and “Gambit,” she exhibits a working knowledge of technical matters and procedures about real-life counterterrorism techniques and about high-tech threats.

The principals are Samantha Reid, deputy assistant to the president for Homeland Security, and Tripp Adams, vice president of an oil and gas company whose natural gas pipelines are under attack. Adams also comes from a Special Forces military background. Samantha works for a vain and foolish man who turns to her for talking points for his many television interviews when she is trying to concentrate on a major national security threat, a series of natural gas pipeline explosions.

Coming from an oil-and-gas family background as she does, she begins to embark on the sleuth work necessary to find out how and why the explosions are occurring, with loss of life and wintertime danger to millions in various parts of mid-America. She and Adams discover they attended college at the same time. They find themselves comparing notes and theories about the attacks, but also soon find mutual attractions, namely, sex, then love. The bedroom scenes aren’t “R” rated, but then they aren’t “PG” either.

We are introduced to the conspirators who are setting off the explosions and we find out who in which country is behind them. To reveal all of this before you read the book would be unfair. Suffice to say, Adams is sent to that country to try to get a better price than has been offered for the nationalization of his company’s facilities there and is kidnapped shortly after landing.

Samantha, after encountering bureaucratic inertia at the State Department, CIA and FBI, despairs of finding, let alone rescuing, her lover. Meanwhile, there are ominous clues that a much more destructive explosion will soon take place in a location critically important to the nation’s entire natural gas infrastructure. She turns to a former military colleague of Tripp’s and, together, they concoct a daring plan to extract him from the kidnappers. You will endure a good deal of nailbiting before you get to the end of this, not to mention the heart-stopping action surrounding the countdown to the big explosion.

With this book and its predecessors, author Bodman has successfully created a new subgenre: the Washington high-tech thriller. And, although this is a novel, it reminds us once again of just how vulnerable we are to carefully planned attacks by determined terrorists.

Peter Hannaford is the author of nine books, including “Recollections of Reagan.” He can be reached at www.imagesfromthe past.com.

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