Avalon Bay is a thriller involving the secret terrorist plot of homegrown jihadist converts to Islam under the direction of al Qaeda. The action takes place in the town of Avalon on Catalina Island, off the coast of southern California. Jenn and Bill have a home there, where Bill runs a financial services business. Jenn commutes to her day job on the mainland, where she works as director of military response for Raytheon until she can establish her online jewelry business and finally quit.
The couple’s world is jolted when the quiet female tenant of the island rental unit they own is murdered. The police and a bungling L.A. detective suspect the tenant was killed because of involvement in the drug world. However, Jenn, Bill and their eager friend and co-worker, Tiffany, find signs that the woman had frightening links to terrorism. They believe others are operating on the island in disguise and that many are in danger. When the authorities refuse to listen, the three conduct their own surveillance and research in hope of preventing mayhem.
Author Ronald von Freymann makes good use of his extensive military background to add realism to the terrorists’ plotting and weapon building, as well as the complexities of dealing with the intermingled authorities of a city SWAT team, the FBI and Homeland Security. He nicely incorporates Arabic conversation and quotes from the Qur’an as well. For the most part, the action is well-paced, save for a slow 40-page setup near the book’s start when the island-based jihadists and their plans are introduced. The characters are well-drawn and likable, and though the plot is credibly frightening, the author manages to sprinkle in occasional humor.
Overall, Avalon Bay is entertaining, with enough action and detail to keep the pages turning. While the book lacks the chills and intensity of a Ken Follett thriller, it engages enough to deliver a fun read for most fans of the genre.