Review: CITY OF WINDOWS by Robert Pobi (Minotaur Books)

PobiR-LP1-CityOfWindowsUSA fantastic new thriller, and hopefully the start of a long series

During the worst blizzard in memory, an FBI agent in a moving SUV in New York City is killed by a nearly impossible sniper shot. Unable to pinpoint where the shot came from, as the storm rapidly wipes out evidence, the agent-in-charge Brett Kehoe turns to the one man who might be able to help them — former FBI agent Lucas Page.

Page, a university professor and bestselling author, left the FBI years ago after a tragic event robbed him of a leg, an arm, an eye, and the willingness to continue. But he has an amazing ability to read a crime scene, figure out angles and trajectories in his head, and he might be the only one to be able to find the sniper’s nest. With a new wife and family, Lucas Page has no interest in helping the FBI — except for the fact that the victim was his former partner.

Agreeing to help for his partner’s sake, Page finds himself hunting a killer with an unknown agenda and amazing sniper skills in the worst of conditions. And his partner’s murder is only the first in a series of meticulously planned murders carried out with all-but-impossible sniper shots. The only thing connecting the deaths is that the victims are all with law enforcement — that is until Page’s own family becomes a target.

To identify and hunt down this ruthless, seemingly unstoppable killer, Page must discover what hidden past connects the victims before he himself loses all that is dear to him.

This is the first of Pobi’s novels that I’ve read, and I was intrigued by the premise. Very quickly, it became clear that this is a very good novel by an excellent writer. I really enjoyed this, and I’ll definitely be reading more of Pobi’s work in the future.

Each of the characters in  City of Windows is interesting and distinct. Even those who only appear briefly felt entirely real on the page: Pobi gives readers just enough details to give them a three-dimensional feel. For those characters who feature more prominently, you become invested in their fates, curious about their backgrounds and experiences. Even the sphinx-like Brett Kehoe, Page’s former boss and the special-agent-in-charge who ropes him back into the FBI fold: he recalls Thomas Gibson’s “Aaron Hotchner” in Criminal Minds.

Antagonistic Graves never felt like a cartoon or cliché cynical agent while butting heads with the outsider called in to help (Page). Whitaker, the specialist on domestic terrorism, becomes Page’s handler and their working relationship is great: her spooky ability to read what people are not saying, or about to say, offers an amusing foil to the purposefully withholding Page. I enjoyed seeing their friendship and respect develop — I think she’s my favourite character, followed closely by Dingo (Page’s friend who features prominently in the story, too).

Lucas Page is an interesting protagonist. After a horrific event in his past — a work-related accident or attack — he now has a prosthetic leg and arm, and is also missing one of his eyes. Page doesn’t allow his situation to get in the way of his work — he’s so driven, so single-mindedly focused on figuring out the puzzle. Pobi does a nice job of showing how Page has adapted his life to account for his prosthetics. Page also has a prodigious mind for mathematics, which is why the FBI comes to him — luckily for him, his intellect wasn’t affected by the accident (Pobi doesn’t give us many details about the event — perhaps saving them for a later novel in the series). Given the incredible shots taken by the sniper, Kehoe pulls Page back in to help locate the firing sites, and maybe crunch the data to help them discover the shooter’s identity.

Over the course of the novel, Pobi gives us some flashbacks from Page’s past — a foster kid, he was taken under the wing of a wealthy patron after his gift for mathematics and physics was uncovered at an early age. It an interesting and welcome bit of insight into what makes Page tick.

He and his wife foster a number of children — unlike in James Patterson’s Michael Bennett series, this side of the story is neither saccharine, nor schmaltzy. Page is giving back by giving these abandoned, abused kids a safe home and a new family. Pobi does a great job of writing the couple’s relationship, how they balance (and don’t) their various careers and responsibilities.

At times, this novel felt a little like a really good blend of Numb3rs and Criminal Minds. At the same time, Pobi has a real gift for setting a scene, describing places, people, and events in an evocative way without overdoing it. His prose is tight, flows brilliantly.

In addition to its gripping story, the novel also contains a fair amount of blunt commentary on American culture and politics. Through the use of various analogs, the author turns his sights on gun culture, survivalists, Fox News, and the NRA: he’s unsparing in his criticism, sharply puncturing the hypocrisies and madness that seems to drive so many of the American right’s entrenched beliefs and power-centres. Personally, I think he was spot-on in pretty much every instance.

Overall, this is a fantastic thriller. Highly recommended, I really hope there are more novels to come in the series.

*

Robert Pobi‘s City of Windows is due to be published in August 2019 by Minotaur Books (North America) and Mulholland Books (UK).

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

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