RARA-AVIS: Paul Lindsay: Freedom to Kill

From: Joy Matkowski ( jmatkowski1@comcast.net)
Date: 13 Oct 2002

On Jim Doherty's recommendation, I read FREEDOM TO KILL. (See his comments below.) Early on, I was disappointed. Despite an interesting bank robbery that starts the story and establishes the persona of the protagonist, the book seemed more thriller than mystery, and the megalomaniacal would-be terrorist (of 1997) pales by comparison with current events. The writing is compentent, the portrayal of FBI culture is convincing, and it came well recommended, however, so I persevered, and the book turned into an exciting, twisting chase. Much of that chase is tracking down and comparing phone records, airplane schedules, and military school dropouts, which could be tedious, but in a neat application of symbiosis Lindsay has Devlin adopt a headquarters computer jockey with MS who breezes through the grunt work and in turn grows as an FBI professional and as a person. There is a parallel plot of why Devlin takes on so many risks, and his coworkers and wife are well drawn. Besides personality profiling, this book also describes the currently popular geographical profiling, although not labeled as such.

Joy, having enjoyed Kris Nelscott's noir 1968 books, now proceeding to Peace's 1974

The first three books feature Mike Devlin, a Chicagoan working as a "brick agent" (a street-level investigator) in the Bureau's Detroit field office
(where Lindsay himself was stationed for many years). Lindsay was something of a specialist in serial killer cases, and all of the Devlin books pit Devlin against some sort of serial killer. . . . And my favorite of the trilogy, FREEDOM TO KILL, features a villain who uses modern-day technology to commit serial murders on a massive scale, sort of a Unabomber on steroids. Throughout the Devlin books, the hero rails against the
"bureaucratization" of the FBI, the back-stabbing "careerism" of management-level agents, and an agency culture that cares more about avoiding failure than actually solving crimes. Devlin emerges as what one critic calls "an FBI poster child for insubordination."

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