"The Room of White Fire" (G.P. Putnam's Sons), by T. Jefferson Parker
Roland Ford is a private investigator who excels at finding missing people. He's also a former police officer, an Iraq war combat veteran and a widower who is tortured by the loss of his wife, who comes to him now in waking dreams.
Dr. Briggs Spencer is a psychologist who made millions teaching the CIA how to effectively torture suspects. He is atoning for it now — or so he says — by operating a chain of quality hospitals for the mentally ill. When a troubled Air Force veteran named Clay Hickman escapes from one of Briggs' hospitals, the psychologist hires Ford to track him down.
"The Room of White Fire," the first of a planned series of Roland Ford novels by veteran thriller writer T. Jefferson Parker, initially unfolds like a standard private eye novel. But as Ford digs deeper into the case, he discovers that everyone, from the hospital staff to Hickman's parents, is either lying or has been lied to about the young man's military record.
Hickman, it seems, knows a dark secret about America's war on terror, and powerful and dangerous people are prepared to do whatever it takes to make sure the secret is never told.
As Ford searches for both Hickman and the truth, Parker deftly builds the tension from suspense to menace to an overwhelming sense of dread. The result is a fast-paced, beautifully written thriller.
Although "The Room of White Fire" is a dark and violent book, it ends on the hopeful note that even in these complicated times, a single man with courage and integrity sometimes can still make a difference. ___
Bruce DeSilva, winner of the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Award, is the author of the Mulligan crime novels including "The Dread Line."