Lawson’s tough-talking, ready-for-action protagonist, Kay Hamilton, is currently unemployed after being let go by the DEA. With a teenage daughter, Jessica, at home (a girl she gave birth to at fifteen but hasn’t seen until recently), the independent Hamilton is trying to behave more like a mother than a single woman, even if the role is completely foreign to her. Accepting a job with a “shadow company” recommended by her former DEA boss, Kay joins the select team of the Callahan Group, founded by Thomas Callahan and tasked with carrying out certain operations the government would prefer not to acknowledge.
Suggesting that his group has a tacit connection with “the president’s guy,” Callahan offers a lucrative salary and the kind of work to which Hamilton is well suited. Not a detail person, Hamilton is trained to follow orders in the field, unafraid to take action and quick-thinking, impulsive even. Where her actions embarrassed the DEA, they may be more compatible with the assignments of the Callahan Group.
Considering the salary and benefits offered, Kay considers it unwise to delve too far into Callahan’s connections at the top levels of government, though she does inevitably become a thorn in her new boss’s side, questioning his orders, wary of completely trusting his assurances of approval from the government. Hamilton doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty or using extreme measures, but she expects to be given adequate reasons that fall with the bounds of necessity--especially now that she has a daughter’s future to worry about. Adjusting well to the presence of another person in her household, Kay finds herself thinking more carefully about the decisions she makes.
Her first assignment, befriending the daughter of an Afghani general in hopes of brokering a mineral mining deal, goes well--until it doesn’t. And when it goes bad, it bears all the markings of betrayal--one that costs the lives of innocent people. After returning home, Hamilton is on a mission and won’t stop until she finds the answers she seeks. From Washington, D.C., to Afghanistan and back, Lawson shifts from foreign soil to the more easily navigable terrain of the US, where Kay works closely with her boss to uncover the traitor in their midst.
On more familiar ground in Washington, Lawson covers territory that lends itself to backroom deals, a theft of millions, and the kind of greed that allows a man to justify the most heinous of actions. Never one to tread carefully inside the lines of the law, Kay Hamilton, though still rebellious and stubborn, is probably a better fit with the Callahan Group than the DEA, an agency that couldn’t sanction her brand of justice under duress, even if expedient. Callahan gives his new recruit enough room to exercise her options and do what she does best--revenge served nice and cold--ultimately satisfied with the results of her endeavors, if not necessarily the methods she uses.
The plot is tight and the action consistent, but this second Kay Hamilton novel feels a bit like Lawson is still molding this character, defining the parameters of her excesses and passions, perhaps tethering Hamilton more to reality with the presence of a daughter and their unanticipated emotional attachment to one another. The espionage scenes, especially those staged in Afghanistan, are not as sure-footed as events back in the US, Lawson more at ease in a landscape he has traveled often in earlier novels. Bearing the swagger and confidence of a female Jack Reacher, Hamilton has the potential to forge new ground, at home in a competitive world where she can fight like a man but retain the assets of a woman. The trick is finding that middle ground.