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Hidden River    by Adrian McKinty order for
Hidden River
by Adrian McKinty
Order:  USA  Can
Scribner, 2005 (2005)
Hardcover, Audio, CD

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Hidden River opens in Belfast, N. Ireland (where I grew up) and its action peaks in Denver, Colorado. On opening it, I was immediately awed by how high the author stacks the odds against his twenty-four year old 'wunderkind' hero - once rising star of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, ex-cop Alexander Lawson. His 'love affair with truth is long since done' and an addiction to heroin has chucked him off the force, where he was perhaps too competent for his peers' and superiors' liking in his latest Drug Squad role. There are hints that rampant corruption left clever Alex few options but to remove his credibility as a witness.

His mother dead of cancer (and of a 'hippie' philosophy that led her to refuse treatment), Alex lives with his dad, who's a political Don Quixote, tilting at electoral windmills. Soon, a brutal British police officer, the unpleasant Commander Douglas, is also on Alex's case, trying to force him to give up information on his police ('peeler') associates. They, in turn, threaten him and those close to him. Alex lives on the edge of a precipice, but there's worse coming. He learns that his first love, the beautiful, gifted Victoria Patawasti, has been murdered in her apartment in Denver, where she was employed by a conservative nonprofit, the 'Campaign for the American Wilderness'.

Since Belfast has become a frying pan, Alex jumps into the fire, taking a commission from a distraught Dr. Patawasti to investigate his daughter's death. He tells us 'The British cops were down on my neck, the Irish cops were on my head. I had to run.' His best friend, and fellow (part-time) cop, John Campbell, accompanies Alex to Denver. While still jet lagged, they begin their investigation, which leads quickly to another death. This one sets the US police on Alex and John's trail too. One persistent officer, Detective David Redhorse, is particularly effective. Prompted by John, Alex takes a job with Victoria's employers. The organization is run by two brothers, Charles and Robert Mulholland. The former has high political ambitions and is married to gorgeous, classy, azure-eyed Amber.

Alex uncovers a cold case as well as modern murders, blackmail, and a ruthless killer with mob connections. He's bewitched by the lovely Amber, who 'had a little crazy in her ... And yet a sadness about her too, a sense of loss, a hunger that needed filled.' Alex quotes Yeats to Amber, vowing to 'pluck till time and times are done the silver apples of the moon, the golden apples of the sun.' He wants to save her. Through layers of betrayals, Alex does uncover the truth, but he can't save anyone, especially himself. Hidden River is a brilliant noir thriller, populated by real, quirky characters, not to be missed.

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