by Robert Crais
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Jeff Talley, the police chief in a small Southern California town, still has nightmares about the young hostage who died when he made the wrong call in his previous job as a negotiator for an LAPD SWAT team. Now, three smalltime punks go on the run after a grocery store robbery and killing in Talley’s town. Soon his deputies have surrounded the house where the inept robbers have taken Walter Smith and his two children hostage, and Talley’s back in his worst dream again: until the county sheriff’s full-fledged SWAT team arrives and takes over, he has to negotiate for their lives.
Talley … had stepped into the Zone. It was a place of white noise where emotions reigned and reason was meager. Anger and rage were nonstop tickets; panic was an express. He had been all day coming to this, and here he was: the SWAT guys used to talk about it. You went to the Zone, you lost your edge. You’d lose your career; you’d get yourself killed, or, worse, somebody else.