A lawyer, a hooker and a drug experiment gone wrong in a seedy motel sets the tone for David Black’s racy thriller “The Extinction Event.” Jack Slidell an irascible lawyer and a former street fighter is roused out of his sleep by a late night call in Mycenae, New York. The cryptic call leads Jack to a shady motel and to the dead bodies of Frank Milhet, his boss, Jean Gaynor, a hooker and traces of crack cocaine. What initially seems to be an innocuous case of sex and drugs gone sour, morphs into a murky maze involving international ecological implications. And into this maze, Jack gets drawn deeper and deeper with an unlikely companion to assist him in his endeavor to get to the bottom of the riddle. Caroline Wonder, a rookie lawyer in Jack’s firm and one who nurses a frosty relationship with Jack becomes a trusted all as the duo attempt to ward off bullets, betrayals, and barbed wires.
In so far as murder mysteries and conspiracy theories go, “The Extinction Event” does no better than its companion next door. Although making for a Pacey read, there is nothing to distinguish this pot-boiler from a million others from the genre. There is also a forced attempt to make Jack Slidell more flamboyant, boorish, charismatic and a punch line spewing Bond, leaving a jarring impact on the reader. This where James Bond-meets-Indiana Jones-meets-John rebus attempt does more harm than good from a narrative and plot perspective.
There come and go in a breezy fashion a phalanx of characters each one more insidious than his or her predecessor in both intent and execution. There is Cowboy, a hit-man and an almost personal stalker of Jack. He stalks Jack with the same determination of a Moriarty stalking Holmes, but with a suaveness that is exasperating and a silence that is frustrating. Other than nodding heads, civilly tracking Jack and of course attempting to murder him, all that the Cowboy seems to be doing is to compete with a perpetual motion machine. There is Mama Lucky, an extraordinarily obese woman who runs a brother and subsists on Jack Daniels. She also turns out to be a very able informant passing vital pieces of information to Jack.
After multiple pages of irrelevant dialogues, inchoate encounters and implacable emotions, we are left with an ending that is more philosophical than fictional. We are left to scratch our heads in both bewilderment and disbelief and left wondering whether it was worth the while trudging through the pages only to be met with what has to be one of the most ambivalent climaxes in the recent fictional literature past.
The Extinction Event – totally uneventful.