Genre-jumping novelist Dan Simmons makes a splash no matter where he leaps. His 1985 horror debut, The Song of Kali, garnered the World Fantasy Award; the vampiric Carrion Comfort took the Bram Stoker Award; Hyperion, the opening volume of his Hyperion saga, snagged the Hugo. In 1999's The Crook Factory, Simmons spun fact, fiction, and Ernest Hemingway into a ripe WWII spy thriller, and with Darwin's Blade, Simmons dives headlong into the suspense pool.
The country's foremost accident investigator, Dr. Darwin Minor, reconstructs automobile accidents for his friends, Lawrence and Trudy Stewart, whose firm specializes in uncovering lucrative, yet unremarkable, insurance fraud. Odd, then, that two Russian hit men in a souped-up Mercedes E 340 attempt to murder Dar in a 160 mph car chase that results in an airborne Mercedes and two dead Russians.
Sydney Olson, the California state's attorney's chief investigator, who's investigating an accomplice-murdering fraud ring, plans to release a story highlighting the Russian mafia's involvement and Dar's name, and then to spend a lot of bodyguard-time with Dar.
Dar returned her challenging gaze. Suddenly she did not look like Stockard Channing to him anymore. "You're staking me out like that goat in the dinosaur movie... Jurassic Park." As the bond between Dar and Sydney grows, so grow the assassination attempts, a gruesome body count, and the realization that a state-wide charitable organization funded by the country's most famous defense attorney is behind the murderous ring.
"Exactly," said Sydney Olson, smiling openly at Dar now.
Lawrence raised his hand like a schoolboy.
"I just don't want to find my friend Dar's bloody leg on my moon roof someday, okay?"
With its tight plot, memorable and likable cast, and brisk, intelligent narrative, Darwin's Blade has "series" written all over it. Better make room on the Edgar dais now. --Michael Hudson [via]