Elevator Pitch: A Novel
“Linwood Barclay delivers another high-octane thriller with enough red herrings to serve a dinner party of 12 . . .”
If your palms begin to sweat just thinking about trusting your life to a metal cubicle suspended by cables, then you might want to take the stairs, because you will never look at an elevator in quite the same way after reading Linwood Barclay’s latest heart-stopping thriller, Elevator Pitch.
The first elevator crash that kills four people may just be an unfortunate accident. Elevators do crash, but it is rare. When the second elevator crashes, decapitating a visiting Russian scientist, then the crashes move from probable accidents to definitely suspicious.
The NYPD, FBI, and Homeland Security rush to the scene along with New York City Mayor Richard Headley, his son, Glover, and Arla Silbert, a recent hire in the data division. Unknown to the mayor and the rest of the administration, Arla is the daughter of Barbara Matheson, a perennial journalistic thorn in Mayor Headley’s side.
While law enforcement examines the elevator, Detectives Jerry Bourque and Lois Delgado are beginning the investigation of the murder of an unknown man found with his face beaten to a pulp and missing all ten finger tips. Someone doesn’t want the John Doe identified.
Bourque is suffering from occurring episodes of his throat tightening up until he is almost unable to breathe. Although he is told to talk to a shrink for his PTSD caused by a previous case, Bourque depends on an inhaler instead. Be damned if he will admit he can’t overcome his condition even if it is beginning to impact his work.
“He was wheezing. His windpipe had started constricting at the sight of those fingers with the missing tips.”
Meanwhile across town Garnet Wooler, nicknamed “Bucky,” is meeting Mr. Clement, the elderly founder and leader of the Flyovers, a militant group so far to the right, it’s off the map.
“Bucky’d engineered the Seattle coffee shop bombing the week before, which left two dead. That made headlines, to be sure.”
Bucky has responsibility for several events to take place in the city, and he is proud that Mr. Clement trusts him to get the job done with maximum possible causalities and disruption.
A third elevator crashes, and it is now clearly evident that these are not random events. A tiny camera is found in each of the elevators, and a black box the size of a TV remote is connected to the controls of each elevator. Someone off site can control the elevators at will.
At the same time the elevator crashes, a car bomb explodes outside the hotel. Law enforcement goes on high alert, not certain if the car bomb is connected to the elevator crash or not. Mayor Headley orders all the elevators in the city locked down until they can be checked, an action that makes the mayor about as popular as a case of hives.
Detectives Bourque and Delgado find a fingertip at the murder scene, and are able to identify the victim: He is one Otto Mikhail Petrenko, a Russian born citizen, but more importantly, an elevator technician. At that point Bourque and Delgado are assigned to the elevator case.
Two clues tie the cases together: a city car driven by someone who visited Otto Petrenko at his place of work, the presence of Mr. Clement in New York. Are he and his group of Flyovers responsible for both the car bomb and the sabotaged elevators?
As all the residents of New York City are grounded unless they want to take the stairs to their offices in the various skyscrapers, the inspectors rush to examine all the city’s elevators for sabotage. They are on a deadline because the city’s tallest building is due to have its grand opening in a few days.
The inspections must be done by the date of the grand opening because the building is owned by Mayor Headley’s major contributor to his campaign, and he expects the mayor to make certain there is no delay.
As Bourque and Delgado investigate how the Flyovers and the elevator sabotage are linked and hunt for an unlikely suspect, Barbara and Arla attend the grand opening party to confront the mayor about a matter that has nothing to do with car bombs, or sabotaged elevators, but might be more dangerous than either.
Linwood Barclay delivers another high-octane thriller with enough red herrings to serve a dinner party of 12, a plot that twists and turns and doubles back on itself, a perpetrator that no one can foresee, and that takes a few jabs at politicians using the character of Mayor Headley as a surrogate.
Elevator Pitch is for fans of suspense thrillers who prefer action over well-developed characters, although Barclay tries to deliver both. A good read that delivers thrills and not a few chills, particularly if you live on the top story of a high rise.