'Inside Man': A suspenseful read worthy of a good beach

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During a recent trip to Fort Lauderdale, I decided to read a thriller with a southern Florida flavor. Jeff Abbott’s “Inside Man” (Grand Central Publishing, 389 pages, $26) is the fourth novel featuring ex-CIA man Sam Capra (and the first this reviewer has read).

The novel opens in Miami where Sam is attempting to improve a bar he owns — one of several around the world and easily the seediest.

Capra has a mysterious conversation with his friends Steve, a man who once saved Sam’s family in Africa when Sam was just a boy. Suddenly, Steve is dead and Sam wants to know why. His only lead is a beautiful woman who suspects her family may be keeping dark secrets from her.

Abbott gets out of the gate in a hurry. After a dramatic prologue that foreshadows a pivotal confrontation, he quickly sets up his story and speeds Sam into the fray. Nevertheless, the author gets Sam’s complicated back story — international intrigue, mysterious minders, a baby son who has been rescued at great cost — on the page without slowing down.

As the book develops and Sam goes undercover, we are privy to his ongoing mental calculations even in moments of furious action.

While this helps the reader keep up with the puzzle being unraveled and reminds us of Sam’s fitness for the challenges he faces, at times it seems almost pedagogical. Still, the story hums along.

Capra is a strong character, driven by a desire to do right and hampered by a conscious uncomfortable with his deceptions. “Inside Man” is a satisfying, action-soaked beach read.

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