The Intercept is Dick Wolf's first novel—but it's hard to look at it outside the context of his long career as the creator of the Law and Order franchise, and in fact, especially in its early sections, this book could be looked at as a script for the pilot of a new series, L&O Anti-Terror. Jason Fisk is a detective in the NYPD Intelligence Division, working in that law enforcement cooperative ground with the FBI, Homeland Security and other national agencies—and the book's opening section contrasts his decisive action on the ground with the more bureaucratic work of the feds, a promising set-up.
But that's just a curtain raiser to the main story—a plot by the now-deceased Osama Bin Laden to strike at a great symbolic target: the dedication of the new Freedom Tower at New York's 911 Ground Zero. And when a hijacking is thwarted in mid-air, and the six passengers become national heroes, the plot gets complicated.
Wolf works his story-telling like a Law and Order episode, switching between scenes and points of view, and it's very effective story-telling. He's built an engrossing plotline, where the reality of at Al Queda plan remains hidden, always a step ahead of Fisk, and the investigators. His characters work well, and what is most interesting is his frankness with the politics of terrorism; Law and Order has always presented the various arguments on all sides of an issue and Wolf shows considerable understanding for the 'other side' as well as some apposite criticism of the anti-terrorist machinery, while never losing sight of the
real issue or real victims.
As the plot is cranked up, the character around whom the twist revolves isn't difficult to spot, and the plot's main twist swings on his acting somewhat out of character for a trained terrorist—something none of the other terrorists do. That's balanced by tragedy, something a pilot episode might not do, but without giving too much away, it inevitably comes down to the chase. There are some moments familiar from other dramas—notably Homeland—both TV and on film, but it's not a copycat, and Wolf has Fisk there to give it a particularly NYPD, Law & Order edge. I read it on an airplane, which gave it a particular frisson, and it's a well-done thriller. One small piece of pedantry: British casualties are not transported from Iraq in coffins covered with 'English' flags. You'd think a British editor might pick up on that!
The Intercept by Dick Wolf
Sphere, £6.99, 9780751551136
Note: This review will also appear at Crime Time (www.crimetime.co.uk)