Dead Easy

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Miami provides the backdrop for this procedural, in which the wife of a successful contractor is kidnapped by a particularly brutal subhuman. The FBI is called into the case, and a small army of agents and technocrats struggle mightily to apprehend the malefactors and save the victim’s life. She, meanwhile, has been raped, beaten, and staked out on an Everglades hammock where insects and swamp creatures prey on her defenseless body. The descriptions of her excruciating pain, debilitating terror, and psychological deterioration are grim and unrelenting, yet mercifully brief.

Unfortunately, DEAD EASY plods where it should step most quickly. Nehrbass mires a pretty good narrative in the burospeak of government agents. Any suspense is vitiated by such jargon as “Bring in eight sector cars, not midway sector, position at drives north package to enter highway as blockers of Unsub picks up and moves.” The unwary reader goes over the passage twice and finds himself first checking for typos. The agents themselves are little more than robots, although a weak subplot attempts to humanize the characters through intraoffice rivalry. The noncoms tend to be two-dimensional, stock characters: neglectful husband; pretty, fragile wife; cunning, mean criminal and his whore-with-a-heart-of-gold girlfriend.

DEAD EASY is a first novel; the author would be well-advised to emphasize people over procedure in his next.