Monday, March 25, 2019

Book Review: "City of Windows" by Robert Pobi

When I was reading Robert Pobi's upcoming thriller City of Windows, I could hear what I imagined the movie trailer voice-over would be in my head. "Just when he thought he was out...they pulled him back in!"

New York City is hit by the worst blizzard in history. As a black sedan stops to allow a pedestrian to cross in front of it, an almost-impossible sniper shot hits the driver of the car in the head, killing him instantly, not to mention creating a grisly scene on the road in front of it. Given the car was at E. 42nd Street and Park Avenue, home to countless high-rise buildings, it is almost impossible to pinpoint the building from where the shot was fired, and the weather is wiping away any trace evidence that might help.

The FBI needs a miracle worker to help them figure out where to look. They turn to former agent Lucas Page, who left the Bureau after losing an arm, a leg, and an eye, and nearly his life. Given what he went through, he has no love for the FBI, and he has put that phase of his life behind him. He's tried to rebuild, as a college professor and an author, and he and his wife are foster parents to a fairly large brood of children.

The last thing Page wants to do—or his wife wants to allow him to do—is help the FBI. But he can't fight it, especially when he learns that the victim was his former partner, Doug Hartke.

Page has an uncanny ability to see trajectories, angles, and view the city landscape as a sort of geometrical landscape. His brain works in ways mysterious even to him, rapidly calculating figures, algorithms, and helping him solve the riddle of where the bullet was fired from. It's an ability he didn't lose, even after his injuries and the grueling recovery he endured.

"Lucas stood in the intersection, lifted his arms, and slowly rotated in place, absorbing the city in a numerical panorama that pulsed and danced and flashed through his head. He took in the numbers around him, feeding the data into a series of instinctive algorithms that even he did not understand. It was an immediate process, fired up with an automaticity he could not explain. It was like being at the center of a vortex, and the lines of code carpeting the landscape swirled around him at a speed too fast to absorb in any conscious way."

Hartke's murder is, sadly, just the tip of the iceberg. It seems as if every time Page solves a piece of the puzzle, everything changes again, leaving the FBI bringing up the rear, seemingly powerless to stop yet another murder with yet another miraculous sniper shot. Even though there are obvious similarities between the victims—each was in law enforcement—there has to be something more than that dooming them.

A reluctant man, hampered by the after-effects of serious injuries and immense resentment, is the FBI's only hope against a killer that seems to be taunting them. But the deeper Page digs, the more he uncovers, the more at risk he puts his family and himself. It's a race against time and the elements, and it could wind up with Page the victim once again.

I thought this was such a cool concept for a thriller. This was like a mash-up of that old television series Numb3rs with a touch of A Beautiful Mind (just the math genius part, not the schizophrenia) and a little bit of Jeffery Deaver's Lincoln Rhyme series thrown in for good measure, but in the end, this was a creation all Pobi's own.

Page is an absolutely fascinating character, and I was mesmerized by how Pobi described the way he thought and the way he worked. While there are certainly some clichés thrown in here, there is a tremendous amount of suspense, and the setting of the book definitely worked in its favor. Even though I joked about hearing the movie trailer voice-over in my head, I can absolutely see this being adapted into a fantastic movie.

At times I felt the book was a little more cerebral than I would have liked, but I still couldn't get enough of this story and Page's character. Just when I feel like so many thrillers feel like every other one, I find a book that proves me wrong. City of Windows is definitely one of those books.

NetGalley, St. Martin's Press, and Minotaur Books provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!

This book will be published August 6, 2019.

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