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Black Friday is a novel by Alex Kava featuring the FBI profiler Maggie O'Dell, this is the seventh novel to feature Maggie and is set in a modern day USA. Alex Kava has been carving herself a niche in the Patricia Cornwell, Kathy Reichs mode of modern fast acting thrillers, she has constructed a tough profiler in Maggie and we have been followed the travails of Maggie over the last few books.
Maggie O'Dell is a tough, attractive women in her late twenties who uses herprofiling skills to try and stop serial killers from striking and killing their victims. She is single, coming out of a dull marriage and is attracted to the former Sheriff of a small town Nick Morelli who was in charge for one of her early cases. Maggie has survived attacks from serial killers and has recently been convalescing from an attack with an Ebola virus which killed her boss. This is the first case after that attack and her new boss has taken a dislike to the argumentative Maggie.
Black Friday tells the tale of a set of suicide bombers who hit the Mall of America on the day after Thanksgiving, which is the busiest shopping day of the year and the attack is the beginning of a period of terrorist attacks. The students involved carrying the rucksacks have been duped and believe they are going to be involved in a prank where a signal will disrupt electrical technology; instead they are unwitting victims in a terrorist attack. One of the students survives and the organiser of the attack the mysterious Project Manager now must eliminate the student whilst planning the next attack. Maggie is called in as the FBI want a profile of the students and this soon becomes a profile of the mysterious project manager.
I've enjoyed Alex Kava's first books in the series they seemed to have the right level of action with suspense and a bit of character development as we follow Maggie through her breakup and her attraction to Nick. However, the previous book whitewash was disappointing, laboured and a bit rushed so it was with dismay that this novel seemed to be more of the same. Maggie is the main character and the one which the reader has to engage with, however, in this novel she is increasingly becoming sidelined by Nick, and the surviving student. The student Becky is in the first chapter and manages to survive both the blast and the attempts by the project manager to eliminate her, after that her character is one dimensional and a bit dull but the author persists with her and she continues long past any interest in her remains. The same could be said of Patrick who's Maggies half brother and was her father's big secret only revealed when he died, however, in this book he is Becky's love interest and if Becky's presence in the novel waned after a few chapters the involvement of Patrick is even more tenuous and really not required.
Then there is Nick, the love interest or at least the love stirring, he is tall good looking and as a former sheriff and lawyer manages to pop up in this novel as being newly employed by the Malls security firm. So here he is propelled into the action, he doesn't add anything and only makes the story awkward and cumbersome. The will they won't they was interesting about 3 novels ago but by now isn't evenly vaguely interesting. The placing of him in the book is clearly an attempt to juice up the action beyond that of the terrorist attack.
This novel just doesn't work on any level, the concept isn't a bad one, suicide bombers in a mall on a busy day is a classic worst case scenario but the action is too fast paced, the characters we meet for the first time are stiff and generic and the returning characters suffer from terrible lines and no character development.
Alex Kava started her writing with a bang, writing a terse thriller about a FBI officer hunting for an evil serial killer; it's still one of the best first novels and introduced us to a tough on the surface but troubled FBI agent. Through Maggie we followed the hunt for a monster but in this the seventh book, we have a poorly defined villain, a generic action thriller and a book which has so many plot holes that it uses the old trick of keeping the action fast paced so we don't notice.
Finally, and most importantly is the really annoying habit of the author of using the phrased popped in/out. So we have it used when a character is eating, so and so pops such a thing into his mouth, characters pop in and out of a room and things pop up on screens, TV etc. Please stop using the phrase so much, ok we all use the term but let's not use it every chapter and at every opportunity, it starts to grate after a while and then you start noticing the number of chapters, how some of the chapters are down to 2 pages and the amount of dead space in a 380 page novel. I managed to read the book in 2 days but some of the chapters are so thin on words I'd be annoyed if I was the editors paying for the printing.
So a poor effort from an author who had started well, I'd suggest a re-focusing on Maggie and giving her a case where Nick, Patrick or FBI Kuntz does not appear and we have a decent villain to pit her wits against but I suspect we'll have the same dross again but with slight changes. This book has the feel of being more style than substance and has the feel of buying an attractive teapot, nice to look but you'd never make tea in it.
Friday morning after thanksgiving and at the mall of America crowds of people are taking advantage of the busiest shopping day of the year to stock up for Christmas. But for a group of young people the day's events are turning out to have a sinister aspect when something that was supposed to be a harmless prank has a devastating effect- three explosions tear through the mall causing instantaneous death to many and hundreds of injuries to others. As the two surviving students wonder whom to trust they find themselves running from security and also a man who seems intent on silencing them both. With half the place in ruins, fires raging out of control, the stricken people moaning and choked by ash, terror mounts with every moment.
Maggie O'Dell, FBI agent and profiler is enjoying a weekend off when her new boss calls with the news, she has to leave straight away and join the team of investigators to secure the area and make sure no further atrocities are planned. It's likely that this will be the toughest case of her career, but things turn even more terrifying when it's discovered that one of the suspected suicide bombers may still be alive and that person is her newly discovered half-brother. Then there is another call, this is only the beginning, and she has twenty-four hours before an even greater act of terrorism occurs.
This is the second book I've read by the best-selling author, Alex Kava. I seem to have started with her latest and now I'm reading her previous novel. Maggie O'Dell is one of her chief characters and has a huge following in many countries including the US and the UK. Maggie has already gone through a lot in her career with a similarity to other female characters from the pen of such authors as Kathy Reichs, Karin Slaughter and Patricia Cornwall. She's a single woman in her late thirties, maybe early forties, without reading all the books it's impossible to say what she's gone through so far, but she appears to be a woman who doesn't think twice about getting her hands dirty.
Within the first few chapters she's already managed to chase a suspect, nearly getting herself killed. Her actions are brave but obviously she doesn't endear herself to the bosses who expect results without heroics. She has help in the form of Nick Morelli, a former colleague who gets caught up in the action. Unfortunately there is also interference being run in the background by her new boss, A.D.Kuntze, a man who took over after her previous boss died from exposure to a deadly virus. Within a few chapters the reader starts to discover that nothing is what it seems with either the initial suicide bombers or the people she is working with. They have their own agendas and it doesn't take into account the innocent people caught up in this battle for anti-terrorism in American politics.
I found this in her last book and it echoes other books I've read by different authors who paint a picture of the dark underbelly of American politics. I expect what we read is still only a small part of the full picture, but it's scary enough with what we do learn. Time and again our own government have been held to account for involvement in supposed terrorist activities and I do wonder what else there is to discover. Sometimes fiction can echo reality. But back to the book and the ongoing action.
This is enough to please anyone who likes non-stop action and wants a page-turner of a book. The chapters are confined to the ongoing action of one group, so a new chapter will open from the point of view of each group, the man who calls himself The Project Manager leads the terrorists but is actually the prime mover so we get the dark side of the plans from his point of view.
Without giving too much away there is a few sub-plots running alongside, as things are not what they seem in any instance. So Maggie finds she has to trust her own instincts with her half-brother or risk his life and that of the young college girl who got caught in the line of fire. The characters are people from Maggie's past in some instances but there is enough background to follow what's happening.
One thing I have to warn any potential reader, this author doesn't pull any punches. In the opening scenes people are blown to pieces and reading about the smell of burning flesh etc is not advised if you have a weak stomach, the reader is about to find out what it's like to be in a burning building with chaos all around. I found some of it hard myself and I read most things. With writers such as Kathy Reichs you see what happens after a body is found, not when it's blowing up around you.
I liked the characters and wanted them to escape the carnage, but in some cases there isn't any happy endings for everyone. I can't hint at the ending, but like her other books you will be on the edge of your seat right to the last page. The only thing I could say that disappointed me was the rather limited sense of time with all the action over two days. Granted I did get some idea of previous events but it did leave me wanting to know what was in the characters backgrounds. For that I'll have to read another of Kava's books. Somehow that doesn't seem a hard thing to do.
In the book there is a theory about an actual bombing in Oklahoma City. The author has based some of her plot on part of that theory and mentions it at the end.
My book was another library book, but I'm going to have to wait to get another, the waiting list for this author is quite long. If you like the idea of the book then it's fairly reasonable to buy at £3.11 new and from about 1p plus postage used.
First UK publication June 2010.
Thanks for reading my review.