Urban mercenary Repairman Jack is back after a long hiatus, but Wilson's work-for-hire outlaw has clearly lost his edge since his last novel-length adventure, The Tomb (1984). Although still a lean and mean equalizer who makes his living "fixing" personal injustices, he has developed a soft spot for the kind of sympathetic victim that no conscientious defender could refuse. This new escapade pairs him with Alicia Clayton, head of a pediatric AIDS clinic in Manhattan, who has inherited a valuable Murray Hill townhouse from her estranged father. Alicia would love to destroy the building and with it memories of childhood sexual abuse she suffered there, but she is prevented by her slimy half-brother, Thomas, who offers to buy the house for an outrageous sum of money and whom she suspects is responsible for the violent deaths of everyone she hires to dispose of it. Jack eventually teases out the intricate thread that binds Thomas, his secret Saudi Arabian backers, an enigmatic Japanese spy and Alicia's secret shame to the property, but not without considerable help from fortuitous coincidences, lucky deductions and unlikely motives. Wilson (Deep as the Marrow) tries to prop up the shaky logic of his tale with preachy attacks against drug abuse, child pornography and parental irresponsibility, but these issues are too weighty for his pulpy villains and strained plot to bear. Jack still thrills with cliffhanger escapes and ingenious snares for the blundering bad guys, but he emerges from this novel less a hero than a hostage to its social consciousness. (Aug.)
Repairman Jack is back. The hero of Wilson's The Tomb, a New York Times best seller in 1984, is hired to fix a problem for Dr. Alicia Clayton: She's inherited a house she wants destroyed, given its dark past, but someone is getting in her way.