“No Way Out” by Alan Jacobson (Premier Digital Publishing, 2013)

No Way Out

In the fifth Karen Vail installment, the great FBI profiler gets to take a trip across the pond and enjoy some bangers and mash, visit Big Ben and help out some bobbies . . . no, actually, it’s much more cooler than that. Vail finds herself on orders to help out New Scotland Yard with a special kind of case that soon turns into something much more complex and terrifying, dragging her from the world of profiling and tracking to outright black ops. But if there’s anyone who can handle it, it’s the awesome Karen Vail.

No Way Out opens with Vail teaching a class at a conference in Madrid, Spain and soon finds herself in hot water and on the wrong side of the policía. Before things can get too heated, Vail gets dispatched to jolly old England for the first time in her life to help out New Scotland Yard with an explosion at a private collector’s gallery. But constables are not expecting much from a “profiler,” even when Vail starts doing her detective work and putting the pieces together.

At the heart of the explosion appears to be an attack against the supposed discovery of an original folio of one William Shakespeare, penned in his own hand. What’s more startling is its possible link to a theory that Shakespeare’s works were in fact originally written by a “dark-skinned” Italian Jewish woman, one Amelia Bassano Lanier. Since England is more synonymous with Shakespeare than the Beatles, it would come as a shocking, thermonuclear blow to the Brit population as a whole.

But as Vail continues to dig deeper, everything is not as it seems, and the case is far more complex and sinister and has ties deep within the British government. Plus one of the guys involved in solving everything turns out to be an old friend of Vail’s, Desantos, who’s working undercover and will stop at nothing to get to the bottom of these terrorist attacks. Because the guy behind it all is on the world’s most wanted list, Desantos has a score to settle, both on an international and a personal level.

No Way Out is the best Karen Vail novel yet, because Alan Jacobson has outdone himself with the research. As someone with a British parent and friends in Britain and having taken a number of vacations to London and the surrounding areas, I take a perverse joy in nitpicking and critiquing novels set in Britain that aren’t always accurate. No Way Out whisked me away to London and planted me firmly there with the culture, the language, the vocabulary . . . Jacobson did a fantastic job.

As for the detail with the British police service, MI5, British military, and even a US aircraft carrier, Jacobson has again done the work and immerses the reader seamlessly into this world. There are also a number of scenes involving the unusual British aircraft the Osprey, culminating in a final action scene that may be one of the best you will read.

What makes a Karen Vail novel so enjoyable is that Jacobson makes them as real as possible. The characters try hunches and ideas and risky plans, but unlike most thrillers, they don’t all work. There are failures and the characters have to go back to the drawing board and start again. It makes for more interesting and believable conflict in the story and keeps that reader reading.

No Way Out goes beyond being a great summer read, and may be one of if not the best thriller of 2013. Fans will love it, and brand new readers will also. Jacobson explains any necessary back-story, escorting the reader along on one wild ride that the reader wishes partly to never end, but at the same time want to find out how it all ends.

Originally written on July 24, 2013 ©Alex C. Telander.

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