The Deadly Track: A Ride Against Time by Stephen R. Coar is a new detective novel about an FBI agent's investigation of a serial train bomber in the Pine Barrens of NJ. As a resident of Ocean County, I found many of the local towns references familiar, as well as the numerous references to governement agencies that are familiar to all New Jersey residents. Authentic scenic discriptions, transport the reader from the miles of wooded parkway, to the hidden Pines and to the suburbs of NJ.
Coar spends signifiant time in the novel developing his complex set of characters. Ironically, it is not the main character, FBI agent Lester Cody, which drew my attention. Agent Cody seemed like the stereotypical hero- with the typical frustrated and dissapointed wife, and a loving daughter. He is a man who was injured in the line of duty, and suffered physical injury which impacted his personal life as well as his professional career. Most notable, is Coar's explicit, and authentic Charles Dickens- like discription of an eccentric physically deformed, yet brilliant, and lonely misunderstood killer. Max, is the evil mastermind behind the serial train bombings. In fact, the shockingly, vivid discription is so well detailed that the complex story behind the anti- hero, Max, in of itself, would make a richly detailed story. Apparently, the author was familiar with abnormal psychology and the DSM-IV classification of mental illness. Significant attention was devoted to Max's mental abilities, his schemes as well as childhood, and the physical and emotional abuse he suffered. Coar provides the reader with unique insight into a disordered mind. Coinicdentally, Cody and his nemesis share two major traits in common. Firstly, both experience brain trauma (in Cody's case- sustained by an injury and in Max's case, it is due to genetic physical impaiment from birth). Secondly, both are depicted as having a degree of mental intelligence. Yet at the same time, both characters represent opposite physical extremes- reminiscent of the circus freak sideshow. Max is incredibly short- the contraption, which is described as his personal vehicle is described as if it were a sideshow prop. In contrast, Cody is depicted as abnormally tall. The attention to detail in the story behind Max, makes the book worthwhile reading. Quite often in the detective thriller genre, the characters are not very well developed. Not so in this book where significant details are presented about the characters. The insertion of the Islamic extremeists adds further complication to the story. personally I found there were too many characters and story lines to keep track of. Nevertheless, this 494 page detective novel reads like a lengthy saga- with a number of characters interacting in this detective novel. There were a few explicit scenes in the book making it unsuitable for some readers. These were possibly included to add addtional interest to the jaded modern reader of today who is exposed to this material in film, television and modern novels.
The back of the book references a sequel, featuring the hero, FBI Agent, Lester Cody. Yet, as a reader I would like to see more works with the Max, the deformed, sinister midget. Given that his character dies in the end of the book, I assume there is no way to ressurect this memorable and unique character. As a reader I am curious if the author can create an equally intriguing and interesting foe for his sequel. I am also curious about his short stories which are briefly mentioned in the short exerpt about Coar's life on the back of the book. This new novel is a welcome addition to the detective thriller genre, and the Agent Cody series stands to be just as strong a presence in detective fiction as other well known fictional detectives. As a blogger I received this book from the author, published by Outskirts Press for the purpose of writing this review.