★★★★ The ways in which a foreign organization called “the Hand” gasses, shoots, and bombs Boston in Eric Salin’s Boston Burning are horrifying for many reasons, but primarily because they are so terrifyingly imaginable. Harley Jones, a veteran of the federal bureaucracy who also happens to be fighting inquiries into his mental health, is selected to head a new joint FBI/CIA anti-terrorism unit. His appointment is well-timed, as there are threats to the city of Boston via classic rock songs played from an offshore pirate radio station. As landmarks and neighborhoods are targeted, Jones and his team race to stop the mysterious Hand and its leader, Hassan Bucheri. Full of heart-pounding twists and turns, Boston Burning is a thrilling, Clancy-esque look into all parties, good and evil, involved in a terror attack.
The sheer volume of characters introduced in this novel is staggering, but Salin is aware of this challenge and provides a character list to help keep the many names straight. Maintaining the cohesion of the story while rapidly rotating between points of view is an impressive feat, especially as the voice remains unique for each narrator. The pace of Boston Burning drags occasionally, most often when the story leaves either Jones or Bucheri’s teams to follow other characters. However, the high-octane scenes positively thrum with energy and anxiety. This universe runs directly parallel to ours—the effects of 9/11 are felt in everyday activities that could turn deadly with one opened canister on the T. However, the presence of the Boston Marathon Bombings, unnamed and unreferenced in the book, loom heavily in the reader’s mind. Boston Burning is a classic thriller that successfully picks at the fears embedded in America’s national psyche.