No Way Out by Alan Jacobson

No Way Out Reviewed by Russell Ilg

No Way Out is the latest and greatest installment of the FBI Profiler Karen Vail series. In this best novel of the year contender, Karen is taken out of her comfort zone and sent to England to help Scotland Yard with a threat assessment. On the surface, it looks to be a quick in-and-out job. But this simple case takes on a life of its own that soon becomes a much more complex, challenging, and dangerous matter that puts her in a tough position: there appears to be No Way Out for her—and, quite literally, getting home may never happen. There is nothing you can do to get ready for what lurks around the corners in this thriller. It’s fresh and original, and even makes you think—about our history, about personal and governmental security, even about enhanced interrogation.

All of Alan Jacobson’s novels are two-read books for me, and No Way Out was no exception. It starts off with a bang and the pacing is exceptional. The twists and turns occur so rapidly, and frequently, that I found myself reading faster and faster because I had to know what was going to happen next. As with Jacobson’s other novels, I galloped along with its breakneck pace, and after reaching the end, I took a day to absorb it all. I then started reading it again, from page one, to find all the small things that I missed the first time. I find it a great way to enjoy Jacobson’s books.

As with all the Karen Vail novels, this is by far one of the best reads of the year and stands head and shoulders above the crowded field of new releases this fall. No Way Out will have you reading way longer than you had planned, well into the night. One of the reasons is Karen Vail. Not only do we respect her as a gifted profiler, but she feels “real” to the reader. She’s not perfect as an individual or as a law enforcement officer, but she possesses a dogged tenacity that compels her to get to the heart of what’s going on. It’s this quality that makes her so good at what she does as she forges her way forward, looking for a way to get to the bottom of the hardest cases that come her way.

And just what is going on in No Way Out? Jacobson covers so much ground that it’d be impossible to recap the story, certainly without giving away key plot elements, because everything in this book builds on itself. Simply stated, it starts off with the find of a rare manuscript—one over 400 years old—that has significance to world history. More than that I won’t say. But before you know it, there’s a full-blown catastrophe afoot, and Karen Vail, and her covert operative friend, Hector DeSantos, have to sort it out. Will they? And will they do it in time? Equally important, who can be trusted?

Alan Jacobson is one of the very rare authors that writes what I have started to refer to as “fact fiction,” where the novel is based on real places, capturing the way the local people really live and act, which makes the setting come alive. There is only one way Jacobson can do this and that is by spending a huge amount of time in the area to learn all he can about the place and its local culture, with the help and support of the police and other major agencies. You know that the areas where his novels take you are all real because he has been there and walked the streets and talked with people in each location. The result is that you learn how things really happen, whether it be a prison in the US or some country in Europe. There are very few authors who take the time, expense and effort to do this, and it adds levels of depth to the characters, setting, and dialogue that can’t otherwise exist. That’s one thing that makes No Way Out, set in England and featuring the clash of British and American cultures, a standout thriller.

No Way Out is a must read for all thriller fans, by far one of the most exciting novels of the fall and the perfect book to take on vacation. You will not read a better book this year.

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