- - Thursday, February 18, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

BLACKOUT

By David Rosenfelt

Minotaur, $25, 288 pages

The bullets that rip through police officer Doug Brock’s body don’t kill him but their impact on his life may be worse. They ripped away 10 years of his memory at a time when he was on the verge of a major break in a terrorist case.

Brock, a ferociously aggressive cop, wakes up from an induced coma in hospital to respond to the questions of a worried doctor by announcing firmly that the date was 10 years earlier that the day on the calendar.

David Rosenfelt writes with gusto about guns and cops and terror and focuses on the world of police. He clearly has done his research on law enforcement and the relationships within it. There is a certain amount of sardonic humor in his handling of how sympathy is deeply felt, especially for those injured, but expressed chiefly as exasperation that they can’t get back to work fast enough to fulfill their duties. This is especially true of the severely injured who seem to feel disloyal if they don’t get back on the beat fast enough. Brock can’t adjust to getting well, especially when he can’t remember events of the past decade, including his love life. He finds himself escaping the clutches of doctors to pursue not only a committed terrorist but a possible mole in the sacred precincts of the law enforcement environment.

He is also struggling with a reputation for refusing to do anything he is told by people like Wilson Metcalf, a special agent who frequently seems most concerned that Brock will become a victim again and die before he can remember the identity of the man who shot him. This is characteristic of Mr. Rosenfelt who often seems more sympathetic to dogs than people and unfortunately the four legged are not part of his list of chracters this time around.

Brock gets off to a slam bang start by sneaking out of the apartment he doesn’t remember living in, and killing a terrorist about to blow up a movie theater. However, he witnesses the simultaneous shooting of a close friend who is also a detective. Nate, who is the cynical comic in the cast, almost dies and the worst of it is that Brock still can’t remember the previous 10 minutes let alone the past 10 years. It is especially infuriating to him that he can’t remember Jessie Allen, the woman officer he was in love with and planned to marry. It was Brock’s feelings of guilt about the killing of a teenager he had virtually adopted that broke up his relationship with Jessie. Moreover, Brock suspects that his own attacker was the man who killed the boy, and he cannot cope with failing to remember somethg that had changed his life.

It is not a complicated plot, but what make it different is that it hinges on the problems of retrograde amnesia for which there is no cure except a recovery of a sensitive part of the brain. Yet fortunately Brock has lost none of his skill at handling a gun. The author uses the device of Jessie’s memory of her love affair with Brock to trigger what he most wants to remember. While she is reluctant to subject herself to more pain — she admits on one casual event that it was originally planned as the day of their wedding — she relishes recalling what he wants to remember. Like a favorite bar that serves chocolate chip pancakes or a bloody mary without salt or spice or a restaurant where they spent many evenings.

Meantime, death and disaster loom in the form of the terrorist Gharsi, a cold-blooded creature who is more interested in money than principles, who has carefully laid out 12 targets in Manhattan where explosions will not only kill but cause collective hysteria among New Yorkers. He has assembled a small group of well-paid assistants with salaries ranging in the millions for organizing the horror he has in mind, and he has no hesitation about shooting anyone who seems doubtful. He clearly relishes teaching that lessons to two gangsters who talk too much to Brock. Gharsi is the real thing. He is as much a gangster as a terrorist and the author offers no excuses or explanations, simply emphasizing that all that is important is that he should be stopped.

What complicates the case for Brock is his rising suspicion that within the police group to which he belongs and which he trusts implicitly, there is a traitor who is prepared to kill for money even if it involves blowing up half of New York. Money is the price of disloyalty, but Brock tracks down the bad apple even while endangering poor Jessie in the procedure. But as in all good thrillers, bullets fly all over the denouement and there is, as one would expect, a happy ending for Brock and Jessie as well as Nate, his overweight best friend who manages to lose 11 pounds when he is shot.

Muriel Dobbin is a former White House and national political reporter for McClatchy newspapers and the Baltimore Sun.


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