Carol Starkey, at the beginning of Demolition Angel, is in therapy. She is haunted by her dreams. She is haunted by her memories. A former bomb technician for the LAPD, she was injured while trying to diffuse a bomb that went off because of an earthquake. Her lover, "Sugar" was killed in the blast. The scars of the incident mark her stomach and one of her breasts, which to her is a symbol of the bomb's destruction of her very womanhood.
Starkey hasn't been with a man for the three years since the accident. She can't stand to be close to people, either literally or metaphorically. She drinks heavily, pops Tagamet rather than eats, and stays awake to avoid her dreams. With a character that has this much emotional baggage there' s going to be a substantial amount of conflict that arises, and good conflict always creates great fiction.
When Charles Riggio is killed from a pipe bomb explosion as he tries to diffuse it, Starkey, now with the Criminal Conspiracy Section, is called in to investigate. It's not long before Jack Pell from the federal Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms agency arrives to help with the investigation. He claims that Mr. Red, a serial bomber that targets bomb technicians, is responsible for the death of Riggio. Pell is single-minded in his desire to catch the elusive bombing expert.
And then of course there is Mr. Red, who wants to be on the FBI's ten most wanted list. His desire to be placed there matches his desire to blow things apart. It's a need for him, one that satisfies his sexual urges as well. It's a trait that many bombers share in the novel, the replacing of sex with the setting off of explosives. It costs many of them fingers, yet they still feel compelled to blow things apart. It becomes an overwhelming obsession.
To his credit, Robert Crais moves between characters seamlessly. Each character has a unique narrative voice, something he hasn't really had a chance to play with in his Elvis Cole novels. Some of the Cole characters do appear in this book, most notably John Chen of L.A. Requiem, who investigates the crime scene. The late Samantha Dolan is briefly mentioned as well.
Demolition Angel is about rebirth. Carol Starkey died for a few moments after the explosion that took he lover's live forever. In many respects he was the lucky one, since he didn't have to live in the pain that Starkey experiences after that fateful day. She has had to survive every day since the incident; since the medics revived her. She would probably prefer to have died. Her rebirth also gives her a second chance to live, however, and as a reader we hope that she does. It's this hope that makes Demolition Angel such a compelling work.
All text (C) 2000 LCB
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