A valiant hero to root for, a vividly rendered small-town setting, lots of expertly managed violence: another crowd-pleaser...

THE LOST ONES

Atkins’ sequel to The Ranger (2011) finds Quinn Colson counting the ways in which his Afghanistan tours resemble life in the nice little Mississippi town that’s just elected him sheriff.

Begin with the complicated matter of identifying “friendlies.” What with turf wars and hidden agendas, not all law enforcement people march in lock step, Quinn discovers. Long legs, pretty red hair and an FBI power suit, for instance, do not, for sure, an ally make. They can signal one thing, then its opposite, and sometimes both simultaneously—mixed signals with the potential for dangerous, even deadly confusion. Along those same lines, an old pal with whom Quinn once happily tormented the juvenile authorities of Tibbehah County, Miss., now travels a crooked path to nowhere and can no longer be trusted. On the other hand, it’s a good bet that even Afghanistan might never be able to duplicate the homegrown nastiness of Johnny Stagg, the bottom feeder Quinn replaced as sheriff, and about whom the usually even-tempered, essence-of-cool Quinn is heard to say, “I’d like to punch Johnny Stagg in the throat.” Whether the business is dismal enough—and profitable enough—depends on ex-sheriff Stagg being somehow near the core of it. And suddenly Tibbehah County is rife with dismal profitable opportunities. There’s gunrunning activity involving bloodthirsty Mexican cartels, a thriving cottage industry in baby-selling, and more, all of which keeps Sheriff Quinn stepping briskly to keep up. Add to this a full familial plate: His wayward kid sister has unexpectedly returned. To reclaim the little boy she left in Quinn’s charge? Good, hard-to-answer question. So, with his own agenda piled high and spilling over every which way, it’s entirely possible that from time to time Quinn might ask himself if Afghanistan was…well…quite as singular as he’d thought.

A valiant hero to root for, a vividly rendered small-town setting, lots of expertly managed violence: another crowd-pleaser from a thriller-meister at the top of his game.

Pub Date: June 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-399-15876-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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POP GOES THE WEASEL

After a flight in fantasy with When the Wind Blows (1998), Patterson goes to ground with another slash-and-squirm psychokiller page-turner, this one dedicated to “the millions of Alex Cross readers, who so frequently ask, can’t you write faster?” By day, Geoffrey Shafer is a charming, 42-year-old British Embassy paper-pusher with a picture-perfect family and a shady past as an MI-6 secret agent. Come sundown, he swallows a pharmacy of psychoactive pills, gulps three black coffees loaded with sugar, and roams the streets of Washington, D.C., in a battered cab, where, disguised as a black man, he rolls dice to determine which among his black female fares he—ll murder. Afterwards he dumps his naked victims in crime-infested back alleys of black- slum neighborhoods, then sends e-mails boasting of his accomplishments to three other former MI-6 agents involved in a hellish Internet role-playing game. “I sensed I was at the start of another homicide mess,” sighs forensic-psychologist turned homicide-detective Alex Cross. Cross yearns to catch the “Jane Doe murderer” but is thwarted by Det. Chief George Pittman, who assigns sexy Det. Patsy Hampton to investigate Cross and come up with a reason for dismissing him. Meanwhile, Cross’s fiancÇe is kidnaped during a Bermuda vacation, and an anonymous e-mail warns him to back off. He doesn’t, of course, and just when it appears that Patterson is sleep-walking through his story, Cross nabs Shafer minutes after Shafer kills Det. Hampton. During the subsequent high-visibility trail, Shafer manages to make the jury believe that he’s innocent and that Cross was trying to frame him. When all seems lost, a sympathetic British intelligence chief offers to help Cross bring down Shafer, and the other homicidal game-players, during a showdown on the breezy beaches of Jamaica. Kinky mayhem, a cartoonish villain, regular glimpses of the kindly Cross caring for his loved ones, and an ending that spells a sequel: Patterson’s fans couldn’t ask for more.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 1999

ISBN: 0-316-69328-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1999

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A top-notch psychological thriller.

COLD COLD HEART

In Hoag’s (The 9th Girl, 2013, etc.) latest, talented young newscaster Dana Nolan is left to navigate a psychological maze after escaping a serial killer.

While recuperating at home in Shelby Mills, Indiana, Dana meets her former high school classmates John Villante and Tim Carver. Football hero Tim is ashamed of flunking out of West Point, and now he’s a sheriff’s deputy. After Iraq and Afghanistan tours, John’s home with PTSD, "angry and bitter and dark." Dana survived abduction by serial killer Doc Holiday, but she still suffers from the gruesome attack by "the man who ruined her life, destroyed her career, shattered her sense of self, damaged her brain and her face." What binds the trio is their friend Casey Grant, who's been missing five years, perhaps also a Holiday victim, even if "[t]he odds against that kind of coincidence had to be astronomical." Hoag’s first 100 pages are a gut-wrenching dissection of the aftereffects of traumatic brain injury: Dana is plagued by "[f]ear, panic, grief, and anger" and haunted by fractured memories and nightmares. "Before Dana had believed in the inherent good in people. After Dana knew firsthand their capacity for evil." Impulsive and paranoid, Dana obsesses over linking Casey’s disappearance to Holiday, with her misfiring brain convincing her that "finding the truth about what had happened to Casey [was] her chance of redemption." But then Hoag tosses suspects into the narrative faster than Dana can count: Roger Mercer, Dana’s self-absorbed state senator stepfather; Mack Villante, who left son John with "no memories of his father that didn’t include drunkenness and cruelty"; even Hardy, the hard-bitten, cancer-stricken detective who investigated Casey’s disappearance. Tense, tightly woven, with every minor character, from Dana’s fiercely protective aunt to Mercer’s pudgy campaign chief, ratcheting up the tension, Hoag’s narrative explodes with an unexpected but believable conclusion.

A top-notch psychological thriller.

Pub Date: Jan. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-525-95454-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

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