Jesse Warden is serving two consecutive life sentences for his partner’s murder and the attempted theft of evidence money, crimes he did not commit while serving with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Although Warden stole evidence money from another case to pay debts from his wife’s fatal bout with cancer, he was framed by his boss for the other two crimes.
Warden’s former boss offers him the chance of a presidential pardon if he can collect enough evidence to convict Jack Gene Coldwater, a former military hero who is now dealing in arms in a small Idaho town under the cover of running a church. Two agents have already disappeared while on Coldwater’s case, so Jesse knows that he must be extremely careful both of Coldwater and of his former boss, whom he is prepared to kill to maintain his freedom.
Warden does not trust the deal offered to him and makes plans to flee the country once his job is done, or before. Those plans are complicated when he falls in love with his landlady in Idaho. He struggles to defend his cover story under the scrutiny of Coldwater and evades several near discoveries. He finds that the Justice Department is keeping close tabs on him, hindering his operations and insisting that he gather more evidence with increasingly dangerous methods. He must decide whether to continue with the job or try to escape with government agents monitoring his every move.
Woods cleverly builds suspense and presents a series of thrilling climactic events, offering many surprises along the way. Although something of a stock heroic character, Warden is engaging, and as in previous efforts Woods puts his characters into unpredictable situations, always keeping up a fast pace. This novel is more similar to SANTA FE RULES than to the thriller DEAD EYES and the comedic L.A. TIMES. Fans of Woods will enjoy his foray into yet another type of writing.