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DOUBLE TAP

Assassins and agents, like fine wines, improve with age.

After an apparent assassination attempt, a retired CIA operative dives back into the espionage trenches to save her son.

Helen Warwick beams with pride as her son, Mitch, announces his candidacy to serve as district attorney of Washington, D.C., a position he’s temporarily filled since his boss was gunned down three months earlier. The crowded press conference is disrupted when the hyperalert Helen notices a tiny flash of green light on her son’s chest and springs into action, slamming him out of harm’s way. The skepticism she’s greeted with ignites her anger. Her urgency to neutralize the would-be assassin is a big enough carrot to lure her out of retirement and back to the CIA. Boss James Wagner pinpoints the threat as the insidious group Scorpius, the same cabal that targeted Helen in her debut appearance in Second Shot (2023). The gravity of the situation is driven home when her briefing by Andrew Mizuki, Wagner’s second in command, is punctuated by his suspicious death before her very eyes. Dees fills Helen’s path to a final showdown with an array of shady characters. An unusual and apparently unconnected subplot simmers beneath the main action before its relevance is disclosed. The chief attraction is not the slow-moving plot but the heroine, a juicy combination of motherliness, brainpower, and cold brutality. Helen even orders opposition research on her beloved Mitch, hoping to find the motive for his targeting. You have to love a spy who can promise only a single weekend free of killings: “No murders before Monday.”

Assassins and agents, like fine wines, improve with age.

Pub Date: May 21, 2024

ISBN: 9781496739780

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Kensington

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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TOM CLANCY ACT OF DEFIANCE

Well-paced excitement as the Ryans come through again.

Echoes of Tom Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October reverberate four decades after the late author’s famous debut.

In 1984, Dimitri Gorov plans to deliver details of the advanced Soviet submarine Red October to the Americans, but Marko Ramius has already defected and delivered the boat itself. Gorov dies and now, decades later, his son Konstantin captains the Belgorod, Russia’s most advanced sub. Said sub goes rogue along with its nuclear-tipped torpedoes that can penetrate American defenses and blow up some of our coastal cities, or “wipe the American Atlantic fleet off the map.” Driven by multiple grievances, Konstantin wants to do just that, but a painful illness may bring him down. Meanwhile, young Navy lieutenant Kathleen (Katie, please) Ryan plays one of several key roles in trying to stop World War III. She’s smart and appealing and tries hard to downplay the fact that she’s President Jack Ryan’s daughter—“Daddy’s little girl,” as a snarky officer says to her face. In one nail-biting scene a helicopter tries to transfer her from a ship to a submarine in the open ocean. As with every novel in the series, readers are treated to a ton of technical details and asides that slow the reading occasionally, but without which it would not be a Clancy yarn. And of course, there is the obligatory establishment of what fine all-around Americans the Ryans are. Plenty of well-crafted characters, Russian and American, make up the cast. War begins to brew as a Russian MiG is shot down and troubles threaten to escalate. At one point, Katie “felt like the entire world was barreling toward oblivion and she was the only one who could stop it.” But wait: Late in the game, Konstantin muses, “There is nothing the Americans can do to stop me.” Who is right? Hmm, that’s a tough one. In her proud father’s mind, Lieutenant Ryan becomes “Katie—my little girl turned naval officer overnight.”

Well-paced excitement as the Ryans come through again.

Pub Date: May 21, 2024

ISBN: 9780593422878

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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THINK TWICE

A great premise leads through all the twists you’d expect to a thoroughly muddy final movement.

Sports agent Myron Bolitar meets the Setup Serial Killer, who’s found a highly effective way to keep anyone from connecting the dots.

There’s no arguing with DNA evidence, the ultimate forensic clincher. So when basketball player Greg Downing’s DNA is found on the scene where retired model Cecelia Callister and her son, Clay, were killed, the FBI comes calling on Myron to ask where they can find Greg. Myron’s a reasonable person to ask because Greg was his schoolmate and former client, the man who wooed and won Myron’s girlfriend away from him and made her Emily Downing. Try as he might, though, Myron can’t help much beyond repeating the obvious: Greg died three years ago, and his body was cremated. Since the Feds aren’t about to give up their search, Myron and his partner, financial advisor Win Lockwood, decide they’d better see if they can get ahead of this story by confirming or contradicting the story of Greg’s death. Meantime, a series of interleaved episodes show the killer eliminating a series of primary targets and framing secondary targets so convincingly for the murders, with special thanks to planted DNA, that it never occurs to the police to connect crimes that were so readily solved on their own. Complications arise when Myron’s thrown together with Jeremy Downing, the son he fathered in a pre-wedding tryst with Emily and then passed off as Greg’s, and when the allies of mob boss Joseph “Joey the Toe” Turant, who was locked up four years ago after his DNA-fueled conviction for the murder of Jordan Kravat, decide to lean on Myron to get him to reveal where Greg is.

A great premise leads through all the twists you’d expect to a thoroughly muddy final movement.

Pub Date: May 14, 2024

ISBN: 9781538756317

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 23, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2024

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