The August Tip of the Ice Pick Award goes to veteran thrillermeister Robert Ferrigno for his edgy noir mystery, The Wake-Up. Protagonist Frank Thorpe is a mostly-retired "black-ops" specialist for a government agency that doesn't officially exist. At LAX en route to a long-awaited vacation, he spots a young vendor being mistreated by an obnoxious (and obviously well-heeled) businessman. In the grand American tradition of coming to the aid of the little guy, Thorpe decides to treat the businessman to a bit of comeuppance, to give the man a "wake-up." It will be a minor interruption to Thorpe's vacation, but all things being equal, it should prove immensely satisfying. Problem is, in a Ferrigno novel, all things are never equal; when the first domino is pushed, the carefully arranged pattern goes awry remarkably quickly. The cast of villains is perhaps the best in mystery fiction so far this year: it includes a clothing magnate surf bum who doubles as a designer drug creator; his murderous (albeit dimwitted) redneck brother-in-law; an oddly angelic bio-engineered Romanian hit man and his Atkins-dieting partner in crime; and The Engineer, a sadistic international criminal who would like nothing better than to see Thorpe dead. Robert Ferrigno is in many ways the consummate author; he brings many admirable qualities to the table (plotting, characterizations, humor, tension) without any one of them jumping to the head of the line at the expense of the others. The Wake-Up stands tall in Ferrigno's fine body of work.

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