Books
2:31 pm
Mon January 25, 2010

"Broken Wing" by Thomas Lakeman

Within a few pages, though, the reader realizes everybody's personal life is to go on hold as Yeager is recruited to go undercover to New Orleans, to rescue a young woman kept hostage and break up a particularly vicious organized crime ring. He will go as a "broken wing," an agent disgraced and drummed out of the Bureau and, now "rogue," willing to join the bad guys and seek revenge for his terrible disgrace.

Thomas Lakeman's first novel, the thriller "The Shadow Catchers," did not appear until 2006 when Lakeman was 40 years old. He had been plenty busy up until then, however. Born and raised in Mobile, Lakeman graduated from Murphy High and Sewanee, and studied theatre in England, Ireland and at Carnegie-Mellon University. He writes that his first real job was in marketing at Universal Pictures and, after a number of years in Hollywood, Lakeman taught for four years at South Alabama and is now Tennessee Williams playwright-in-residence at Sewanee.

His years studying acting and playwriting and working with film have really paid off. Lakeman is in control of his material and knows his craft.

The first two novels build toward "Broken Wing," the third. In "The Shadow Catchers," FBI Special Agent Mike Yeager works on child kidnapping cases. Yeager steps over the line whenever he feels it necessary and gets into heaps of trouble, finally suspended from the Bureau. The second novel, "Chillwater Cove," set in Tennessee, features FBI Special Agent Peggy Weaver, again in cases involving child abuse and pornography. This new novel begins with Yeager reinstated to service in the FBI and engaged to Peggy Weaver.

Within a few pages, though, the reader realizes everybody's personal life is to go on hold as Yeager is recruited to go undercover to New Orleans, to rescue a young woman kept hostage and break up a particularly vicious organized crime ring. He will go as a "broken wing," an agent disgraced and drummed out of the Bureau and, now "rogue," willing to join the bad guys and seek revenge for his terrible disgrace.

The New Orleans of this novel is one year after Hurricane Katrina, and Lakeman's portrayal of it reminded me of those many post-apocalyptic movies, after the Future Great War. This place is Cormac MacCarthy's "The Road," except with red beans and rice and crawfish ?touff?e. Law and order have not yet been "restored" if that is the right word. Huge landscapes of ruin and desolation are everywhere. Walking down public streets is dangerous and there is a feral feel about everyday life, with potential predators lurking everywhere.

Yeager gets a job washing dishes in the Quarter and in due time infiltrates an old-line Sicilian mafia family led by Don Emilio Barca. We learn early that Yeager had fought against the mob in the past and even had a catastrophic love affair with Barca's daughter, Sofia. Now he must try to rescue the hostage, the psychoanalyst Dr. Amrita Narayan, who has "secrets," and whose husband, Simon Burke, ex-MI6, was brutally tortured and killed before her eyes.

Besides the mobsters, however, there are other dubious creatures in New Orleans: politicians, with motives always to be doubted, and a special independent contracting firm, Kadmos, a kind of domestic Halliburton, with its own army, its own enormous financial and personnel resources and its own agenda, to one day "be the law of the land in greater New Orleans."

The mafia and the contractors, our outsourced branch of government, are salivating over the money they can steal from the fictional Levin-Mercato Bill, which would allocate six billion dollars for rebuilding New Orleans. "New Orleans is America's Baghdad," says one character. The opportunities to plunder the taxpayers' money will be enormous.

It is rude to tell a lot of the plot when talking about thrillers, and I couldn't if I wanted to. There is simply too much. This novel has executions and assassination attempts, suicide bombers and pre-planted bombs, secret identities, moles and turncoats, gorgeous, dangerous women in tailored suits, a villain's lair right out of James Bond, high-tech computerized bugging and tracking devices and twenty-first-century weapons you just won't believe, although, sadly, I do.

Lakeman's years in Hollywood have served him well. He can construct a scene in an unforgettable setting: a flooded-out house in the Lower Ninth Ward, a ruined marina on the north shore of Lake Ponchartrain, an eerie old junkyard full of ruined Mardi Gras floats.

This novel will look great on the screen, but why wait? "Broken Wing" is a page turner and loads of fun.

Tags: 

Related Program