Criminologist Lincoln Rhyme assists on a case involving a shadowy government organization. Lincoln Rhyme is a ex-NYPD cop who now works as a consultant, offering his forensic expertise, since he is confined to a wheelchair following an accident. He is assisted by his girlfriend Amelia Sachs who is a police detective who suffers from very bad arthritis, the pain of which she is hiding from her bosses for fear she will be taken off active duty.
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Robert Moreno, head of the activist group Local Empower Movement, is shot by a sniper in his hotel room in the Bahamas while being interviewed by a journalist. The reporter and Moreno's bodyguard are also killed by the shattered glass explosion caused by the sniper's bullet.
NYPD Special Services Captain Bill Myers and Assistant District Attorney Nance Laurel come to ask Rhyme for help on Moreno's murder. Moreno was a US citizen, and Laurel believes the killer is also American who is currently in New York.
The killer's identity is unknown, but Lauren knows who ordered it; NIOS, the National Intelligence and Operations Service, a government agency. Although feds are immune from prosecution when acting on orders, she believes this was a rogue killing by the head of NIOS, Shreve Metger.
In the Bahamas a man named Jacob Swann meets with blonde escort named Annette. He met her the previous week and the two spent the night together, he knocks her out and puts her in the trunk of his car.
Moreno's killing officially being blamed on drug cartels angered by his activism, but Laurel has a kill order for Moreno that was leaked from inside NIOS by a whistleblower. The STO (Special Task Order) outlines the target and date, and the code name of the killer; Don Bruns.
Moreno was suspected of terrorist plotting against American Petroleum & Refining, there are suspicious recordings of him talking about certain dates and some of his shipments were flagged for dangerous materials. But Laurel has linked these to legal activities for his companies, she thinks NIOS has selectively chosen evidence to support their claim because Metzger finds him anti-American,
In the Bahamas Swann gets notified about the ADA's investigation. He takes Annette to a remote location which he used the previous week to dispose of some evidence, and he proceeds to torture her,
Rhyme calls the Bahamanian authorities, but finds them extremely uncooperative. They tell him the sniper was 2000 yards on outcrop but he gets very little else out of them.
With little to work with Rhyme starts by prioritizing trying to find the NIOS whistleblower. He contacts Fred Dellray at the FBI who is an expert on undercover work and can be trusted to be discreet. Dellray uses his intel to find out that Moreno visited New York a week before he was murdered.
For security Laurel sets up office in Rhymes house, which Sachs is not thrilled with but agrees is safer. The realize they need to work fast, the leaked kill order is not just for Moreno, it's part of a queue, the next authorized killing is in a week, on the 19th of May. Laurel hopes to stop it by showing the Moreno case was fraudulent.
At the NIOS Metzger calls in his second in command, Spencer Bosto, to look into the whitsleblower.
After killing Annette and destroying evidence to ensure no one can associate him with the Moreno killing, Swann returns home to Brooklyn. Back in NY he receives a message to take care of any other witnesses, plus Laurel and to find and kill the whistleblower.
Rhyme has Rodney Szarneck from the NYPD Computer Crimes Division looking for the whistleblower as well, he's figured out he used an old iBook computer, which is very distinctive.
At the Rhyme house Sachs is getting increasingly annoyed with Laurel micromanaging the case. She goes out to interview the limo driver that Moreno hired during his last visit to NY.
Rhyme continues trying to get crime scene and coroner info from Bahamanian cops over the phone, finally getting through to the lead investigator, Mychal Poitier. Poitier tells him that he has orders to hold on that case while the Bahamas deals with the Venezuelan authorities, since it is suspected a Venezuelan drug cartel is behind it. He has been told to concentrate on a different murder, of a blonde American tourist, since that one is likely to cause bad press for the islands. He mentions that the crime scene is still sealed, waiting for the Venezuelans.
Swann, also pursuing the limo driver connection visits and kills Moreno's regular driver, but it turns out he was not the one that Moreno used during his last visit, a substitute driver was called in since his was ill. Sachs meanwhile questions the substitute driver who did drive him.
They recreate Moreno's route, he had several meetings but started by visiting his bank and closing his account, then picking up a brunette called Lydia whom he took to the meetings with him. The driver eavesdropped on his chat with Lydia and mentions Moreno said he could never forgive America for the death of his best friend when he was a kid in Panama, and that he would be leaving for good soon. Fred Myers supplies more suspicious info; Moreno was spotted near several embassies.
Poitier calls Sachs back, saying he wasn't free to talk before. His investigation is running into severe obstruction, but he has a description of a man who was asking about Moreno at his hotel before the killing. Rhyme asks for more but Poitier refuses and hangs up.
Frustrated, Rhyme travels to the Bahamas himself along with his nurse Thom, and a rookie cop named Ron Pulaski. He goes to the police station right away but Poitier refuses to talk to him.
Szarneck manages to pinpoint the specific coffee shop which the whistleblower email was sent from, and the date they were sent. Sachs goes to investigate, hoping there might be CCTV footage of the man.
Swann meanwhile has tapped Sachs' phone, he gets to the cafe first and leaves a bomb in the office near the camera, luckily she spots it in time and survives but realizes her phone must have been tapped.
Rhyme sends Pulaski to Moreno's hotel to find out more about the man who was asking about Moreno before he was killed and a phone call that came in regarding Moreno as well. He also looks into the reporter who was also killed.
Sends Pulaski to follow up on guy checking hotel for Moreno. Also looks into reporter killed and then gets a call from Poitier asking to meet for lunch. On the way to the restaurant he thinks he spots someone following their car. At the restaurant Poitier shows him photos of his case files, which he had to sneak out.
Pulaski finds out that the number that called the hotel about Moreno came from NY and is registered to a Don Bruns. The NYPD tech guys manage to locate it's GPS coordinates and find it is still active. Sachs follows the man and identifies him as Barry Shales, who works for NIOS, but they can't place him in the Bahamas during the killing.
The woman that Moreno met with, Lydia, turns out to be an interpreter. Sachs calls her and sets up a meeting but Swann gets there first and kills the woman.
After lunch Rhyme and Poitier go to check out the spot the sniper must have used and are attacked while there. Luckily Pulaksi arrives in time and saves them. Back at the police station Rhyme bargains with Poitier's superiors, offering help with their other murder investigation in exchange for cooperation on Moreno. They agree and he is surprised to discover the murdered woman worked at Moreno's hotel. He realizes she was killed because knew the man they're after.
They go to look at the crime scene but find it has been cleaned, all the evidence is gone. The hotel staff don't recognize Shale's photo. Rhyme figures the man they're looking for was Shale's backup, not the sniper himself. Poitier gets the bullet that killed Moreno from evidence and Rhyme has it traced, finding it is highly specialized and made by a NY company.
Sachs Goes to talk to bullet manufacturer, and while there he figures out that the killing was by committed with a remotely controlled drone not a rifle at all. This means that Shales was in NY during the murder and its a local case.
Their FBI contact helps them track the path the drone took on the day of the killing, and they get aerial photo of the control room in NY that Shales would have used.
They find out that Moreno had renounced US citizenship, making the case of no use to the ADA who is after the feds for unauthorized killings of Americans. But Sachs realizes that Moreno was never the target in the first place it was probably the reporter. He looks into the autopsies and figures out that the glass didn't kill the other two, it was a knife.
They dig further and realize it was in fact the bodyguard who was the target. He was blackmailing someone important.
Furthermore, Spencer Boston is the whistleblower, he was simply jealous of his superior, feeling he should have been the one given that job. Rhyme decides to use Boston's arrest as a trap for the conspirators who are still trying to clean up their mess, and it works. Swann and two others attack during the arrest, but are ambushed by police SWAT and Swann is arrested.
Sachs recognizes Swann from her visit Walker Defense Systems, he is their security director. He was working for Walker who was being blackmailed for supplying false reports to the US government in order to get bigger defense contracts.
After everything they discover that Moreno was in fact a terrorist, Rhyme spots some forensic evidence that leads him to discover a plot to blow up an oil rig. With Shales and NIOS' help they manage to stop it in time and arrest Moreno's accomplices.
At the end of the book, Sach's agrees to try surgery for her arthritis, hoping it will allow her to remain on active duty.
Best part of story, including ending:
It was very convoluted with too many revelations and reversals at the end.
Best scene in story:
I liked the final ambush when Sachs fights Swann, the action was good and believable and I seriously worried Sachs might be stabbed since the bad guy was super creepy.
Opinion about the main character:
Rhymes is a bit sidelined in this book, I did like his renewed enthusiasm for getting out and about after he goes to the Bahamas.