Former state police officer writes of cross-border terrorism

“Southbound Terror: A Marc LaRose Mystery,” by R. George Clark

Most of “Southbound Terror” takes place in northern New York and Quebec. But it begins in Salem, Oregon. There a local farmer harvests a crop originating in China: “The seed, originally from the plant ricinus communis, or Castor Bean Plant, had been carefully hybridized in a secluded laboratory to enrich the plant’s triglycerides, specifically to boost its ricin levels to over triple its natural output.” It is also the seed of the story.

The next scene is Elizabethtown, where private detective Marc LaRose is gathering information on a fraudulent workers’ compensation claim. LaRose is doing typical pedestrian private eye work, and soon he embarks on another seemingly routine job — a Plattsburgh wife’s concern that her husband has not returned from a Quebec business meeting.

The missing husband is Hugo Karlsson, an engineer working for Barbeau Transport, a Quebec company with an assembly plant in Plattsburgh. Barbeau corporation, of course, sounds a lot like a real North Country business, and there are many local references – restaurants, michigans, Fort Montgomery in Rouses Point, e.g. – throughout the book.

The references come from an author who knows the area. R. George Clark uses his experience in the New York State Police, and Customs and Border Protection to tell this action story.

LaRose’s search for the missing husband takes him across the border, where he partners with Detective Sylvie Champagne of the Brossard Police Department. Their search takes them to Nuns Island, where they find Karlsson’s abandoned car, to a Montreal strip club run by a motorcycle gang, and to a shootout in Rouses Point.

Finally, they find themselves imprisoned on the Barbeau Corporation’s newest train – the “Laser,” designed to significantly shrink the Amtrak time between Montreal and New York City. (Unfortunately, reliable and fast railroad service remains fictional north of Albany.) The Laser, on its ceremonial inaugural run heading south from Montreal, is also carrying terrorist destruction, the ricin from Oregon, intended for Saratoga.

Do LaRose, Champagne, and Karlsson escape? Is Saratoga spared? I will only say that the villains make the mistake fictional villains always do: keep the private eye alive too long and tell him too much.

Clark covers a lot of ground in this novel, and there are a number of threads that are left hanging. Perhaps they will be tied up in future novels, but the ex-wife who is a Plattsburgh florist; the daughter who is in college; the process-server who shares an office with LaRose; the future of LaRose’s relationship with Detective Champagne from Brossard; the farmer in Oregon – these plot lines deserve more development.

Nevertheless, Mr. Clark has written a page-turner that has both local connections and international terror.

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