September 10, 2001 12:00 PM

by Ethan Black

Five strangers are on a list. They have nothing in common—except that each one had, or is about to have, a fatal accident. Coincidence, or the stuff of conspiracy theories? To find out, NYPD detective Conrad Voort plunges into an alphabet soup of secrecy—CIA, NSA, FBI—in which the line between patriot and criminal is blurred and savage acts are done in the name of Uncle Sam.

Black nails the cops’ esprit de corps, but the baddies are even better, at once diabolical and heroic. Some passages are overcooked, but Black makes up for it with his flair for action, an affable leading man and a villain you hate to hate. (Ballantine, $24)

Bottom Line: Dead-on

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