'Trader of Secrets' packed with action, suspense

Author Steve Martini likes to have his stories revolve around the threat of big weapons doing big damage to populated areas.

“The Rule of Nine” involved a thermolbaric bomb and Washington D.C. The city survived. The threat in “Guardian of Lies” was a suitcase nuke that could’ve leveled San Diego. The city survived.

The weapon in Martini’s latest suspense thriller, “Trader of Secrets,” is even more deadly. It’s truly a doomsday weapon. It’s a top-secret U.S. project, called Thor, that involves orbits, asteroids, rockets and wiping out entire nations and regions.

But “Trader of Secrets” centers around a human weapon — the ruthless Mexican assassin known as Muerte Liquida, the “water of death.” He has had a prominent role in the past few Martini stories and plays an even bigger part in this one. In fact, the book title could be called “Liquida’s Revenge,” because Liquida goes on a killing spree after previous run-ins with defense attorney Paul Madriani, the protagonist in several of Martini’s novels.

In this story, Liquida takes center stage as he seeks to kill Madriani, his daughter Sarah, longtime law partner Harry Hinds and investigator Herman Diggs. As “Trader of Secrets” begins, Liquida leaves Diggs dying on a garage floor.

“What kept Liquida going was his hatred for Madriani and an unquenchable thirst for retribution,” Martini writes. “The firm of Madriani and Hinds had caused him to lose a small fortune, enough money
for Liquida to retire.”

Next, he is determined to kill Sarah, who is hiding at a safe house in Ohio. He discovers her location.
But Liquida needs money. He used to work for drug cartels but has expanded his horizons to international terror. He links up again with a Chechen arms merchant, Bruno Croleva, who has some deadly plans.

Croleva has become aware of a NASA scientist who wants to sell the Thor technology to the highest bidder, a technology that could fall into the wrong hands and potentially unleash a global catastrophe.
The scientist is the “trader of secrets,” and worse yet, he has a co-worker who is willing to participate.

Meanwhile, Madriani, his companion Joselyn Cole and Hinds track Liquida — from Washington, to the Midwest, to California, to Bangkok and then to Paris. It’s in Paris where everything seemingly collides as the scientists meet Bruno and Liquida, with Madriani and Co. close behind.

But the story doesn't end there. Martini is an excellent plotter, and some surprises await. Locations change, people die and an asteroid moves closer to Earth.

“Trader of Secrets” has become my favorite Martini novel. It has dynamic characters, terrific action sequences and mind-numbing suspense. Following Liquida and his path of destruction, however, is
the most compelling part of all.