A former investigative journalist tries to stop two men, each with vengeance on his mind and access to bombs, in this sequel.
Tina Thomas is shaken by the news of an abortion clinic’s recent bombing a mere 30 minutes from her Chicago suburb. She nearly died in a similar blast five years ago in Arlington, Virginia, during her days of investigative reporting. Tina’s internet search and footwork reveal not only another nearby abortion clinic bombing, but also that the detonation originated in the men’s bathroom in both recent cases. Because that location was the Arlington bomber’s signature, Tina believes he may be out for revenge, as she, attempting to stop him years ago, shot him. But Tina has another equally pressing concern: the “remaining bad guy” from a case she helped the FBI resolve much more recently. Said baddie isn’t behind bars, and Tina suspects he likewise craves vengeance against her as well as her neighborhood chums: Linda, Molly, and Cassandra (aka the Hamlin Park Irregulars). Each member of the group brings a particular skill set, like Molly, an ex-model who worked for the CIA. And joining them is a new neighbor, David John, who’s trained in threat assessments. While trying to locate the FBI-released bad guy, Tina discovers that he has gotten his hands on C4. And finding the Arlington bomber will prove to be extremely complicated. His target isn’t easy to pinpoint, as it could be Tina, additional abortion clinics, or the assassination of a significant political figure.
As in his preceding thriller, Duff (boom-BOOM!, 2017) aptly fuses exhilarating scenes of action and suspense with the more down-to-earth challenges of a stay-at-home mom. Though the Hamlin Park Irregulars stress they’re not superheroes, they’re all exceedingly capable. Linda, for example, with degrees in computer science, accounting, and law, is a former attorney, an exceptional hacker, and an expectant mother. These returning characters are indicative of the consistency between the series’ first two books (less than a week has passed between the stories). The FBI-related case and residual baddie are direct links to the earlier novel. Throughout both installments, Tina has been steadfast in continually potty-training her 2-year-old daughter, Kerry —with only moderate success. As the menaces in this volume are pre-existing (from Tina’s past), tension is established from the beginning and rarely lets up. This is especially true in the latter half, once Tina verifies that someone is watching, tracking, and/or listening to her. Violence, though restrained, also increases and prompts arresting images; one brutal encounter ends with Tina noting “clotted blood on my shorts” and “dried blood under my fingernails.” Nevertheless, there are a couple of notable plot twists that most readers will likely predict, though that doesn’t dampen the inevitable peril in which Tina and others find themselves. Duff weaves a few intriguing themes into the narrative, namely old media vs. new media: Tina scoffs at a reporter who tweets her story and follows up with photographs on Facebook and Instagram.
A superb thriller, thanks to tenacious characters and an unyielding pace. Kirkus Review
In first-time novelist Duff's thriller, a stay-at-home mom uses her skills as a former investigative journalist to find a story, beginning with her curt, suspicious neighbor. Tina Thomas lost her Washington Post job five years ago after the FBI determined her attempt to stop a bomber blowing up an abortion clinic resulted in his detonating the bomb prematurely. Still suffering the occasional PTSD attack, Tina's now living in Chicago with her husband, Carter, an editor at the Chicago Tribune, and their 2-year-old daughter, Kerry. Bored by her monthly column at a local newspaper, she's always looking for a story that could reignite her career. She may have one with her new neighbor, who slams his door shut on her and her welcome-to-the-neighborhood cookies. A bit of research reveals that a corporation owns the house where men are unloading numerous boxes labeled "computer screens." Tina's investigation, taking her to a strip club (the Twenties) and dumpster diving, necessitates the inclusion of friends, from attorney Linda Misle to spinning instructor Cassandra "Cas" Olson. The neighborhood, meanwhile, is rife with other story possibilities: a standoffish Israeli doctor couple and a dentist with a predilection for Twenties dancers. Something ultimately directs Tina to a scheme that threatens the people she loves--and quite a few more. Despite the suburban setting's potential for drollness, Duff's novel generally takes itself seriously. Obstacles, for one, are minimal, thanks to the moms' unquestionable prowess: Tina can bypass security systems and locked doors; Linda's a proficienthacker; and Cas is the muscle. Likewise, the mother-daughter dynamic is endearing in its authenticity. Kerry's toddler vernacular is cute ("Stwike out!"), repeated potty fails are less so. The narrative maintains an impressive momentum with myriad scenes of dialogue and concise chapters. At the same time, it relies heavily on coincidence, especially once plot strands and individuals start connecting. Nevertheless, the ending triumphs, realistically showing that resolving every aspect of an investigation isn't feasible. Ample diverting characters and story for a prospective--and welcome--return to Tina's neighborhood. Kirkus Review
"boom-BOOM is an excellent read and an excellent write. Part 1 establishes the main character as a gutsy woman who has emotional and physical problems without having to use flashbacks later. The writing is precise and filled with suspense, which helps bring the characters to life and helps the reader believe in them. These characters are special, and I like the time taken in explaining them and letting the reader become acquainted with each one as the novel progresses. I especially like the group of women you introduce, interesting and smart, all of them." Writer's Digest Self-Published Book Awards judge.
"This is a fantastic book!!! If you have any connection to Omaha, it is a MUST read! Even if you don't, this book will grasp you immediately and keep you in suspense until the very end. It is literally impossible to put down. Wally's talent for getting you attached to the characters is phenomenal in that he leaves just enough room for your own interpretation to really relate to them. I will, however, throw one caution in, this is not the best book to read on a plane if you are at all nervous about flying. Bring on déjà-BOOM!!!" - Jana F.
"Totally absorbed me from the first chapter. Fast paced thriller with twists that kept me glued to this debut novel from physician Wally Duff. Laced with intrigue and characters that draw you in, I couldn't put in down. Drama, investigation, emotional roller coaster - Wow. Can't wait for the next book in the Hamlin Park Irregulars. Must read for this summer and a welcome reprieve from tired authors on the shelves." - David R.
"Terrific read. The main character is witty, courageous, kind of crazy —a real stroller warrior! The ending makes you want more can’t Wait for next installment." - Amazon Customer
"Loved this book! Can't wait for déjà-BOOM!" - Gloria