2:18 a.m. is Nick Horrigan’s witching hour, the exact time his stepfather slipped away after being shot. A stable force in Nick’s life, the Secret Service agent had become paranoid, fearful of assassins. The careless act of a teenaged boy gave someone the opportunity to exploit the crack in Frank Durant’s armor, and Nick’s stepfather was dead.
His world turned inside-out, Nick barely has time to assimilate the enormity of his carelessness before he is drawn into a morass for which he has no skills to navigate. Seventeen years later, all Nick has to show for his life is a series of jobs, the recurring panic that descends every early morning like clockwork, and a collection of homilies bequeathed by Frank.
“Government can be a nasty thing when you’re on the wrong end of it.” Nick’s quasi-security shattered by an assault of Secret Service agents years later, the past opens up in a nightmarish ride in a Blackhawk helicopter: a terrorist is about to set off an explosion at a nuclear power plant in Southern California, and he refuses to speak to anyone but Nick.
In the space of a few hours, Nick is hurled back into the heart of a mystery he has run from, the past reawakened in a moment of violence. This is the world of clandestine government operations - Frank Durant’s world - a sophisticated playing field where the stakes are high enough to sanction murder for the good of the country. In an election year, everything is political, everything hinges on the truth, and Nick does his best to untangle that truth from the lies and private agendas of big-time operators.
The novel begins with agents rushing Nick to the scene of the impending attack and from there it never wavers. Through a series of tense confrontations and revelations, Nick gradually pieces together the random facts and obvious distortions that began with his stepfather’s death and leaves others in his wake. This is the kind of story that plays out below the radar of everyday existence, the long arm of government powerful and ubiquitous.
As Nick stumbles through this quagmire, he knows only that he is no longer willing to run from the past or the truth. To that end, Hurwitz creates a believable protagonist fueled by nervous energy and a profound sense of loss, a young man longing for closure and an end to the nightmare he has endured since the night of Frank’s death. He gets that closure, but the cost is a forfeit of long-treasured beliefs.