Though it’s amusing on its own terms, the constant infighting among lowlifes keeps this installment below Atkins’ high...

THE SINNERS

Quinn Colson, the sheriff of Mississippi’s Tibbehah County, juggles old-school and newfangled gangs while praying that someone will get him to the church on time.

Now that Quinn’s finally looking forward to getting married and acquiring an instant family that includes nurse Maggie Powers and her 7-year-old son, Brandon, he’d love to cut back on the crime-busting. Fate, as usual, has other plans. Heath Pritchard, the incorrigible marijuana grower Quinn’s late uncle and predecessor Hamp Beckett locked up 23 years ago, has just been released, and he’s eager to horn in on his nephews, dirt-track racers Tyler and Cody Pritchard, who’ve been carrying on the family business on their own less obtrusive terms. Heath’s unforgettable way of announcing his return to his nearest and dearest is to tell them that he needs their help disposing of the remains of Ordeen Davis, whom he caught nosing around on the Pritchard spread. Fannie Hathcock wouldn’t have sent Ordeen, her bartender and general factotum at Vienna’s Place, the county’s premier cathouse, over there in the first place if she hadn’t been getting squeezed between the Pritchard boys, who’d been violating a long-standing agreement with her by running way more weed than they could have been raising themselves, and the Dixie Mafia, for whom she’s been laundering money and providing other services for years and who now send a pair of hands-on managers to Vienna’s Place. The only one who’s in a position to do anything about this mess, it seems, is Quinn’s old friend Boom Kimbrough, whom DEA agent Nathalie Wilkins is pressing to go undercover at Sutpen Trucking, still another major player in the drug trade. Will Boom last long enough to serve as Quinn’s best man?

Though it’s amusing on its own terms, the constant infighting among lowlifes keeps this installment below Atkins’ high standard (The Fallen, 2017, etc.). When bad guys are mostly targeting other bad guys, there’s just not that much for good guys to do besides stand aside and watch the carnage.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-57674-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 29, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2018

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Sure to be a bestseller, but the guy’s phoning it in.

THE CAMEL CLUB

A lukewarm would-be potboiler of uninvolving intrigue about a kooky quartet of conspiracy theorists—one by the name of “Oliver Stone”—who witness the murder of a federal agent.

Almost 8,000 Americans have died in attacks on U.S. soil. Rocket-propelled grenades have pierced the White House, there’s been another prison fiasco in Afghanistan, a dozen soldiers are dying every day and the war has opened a new front on the Syrian border. Thus the author’s bleak imagining of the near future. Throughout, Baldacci (Hour Game, 2004, etc.) drops reliable twists, revealing the federal agent murder to be—surprise—a minuscule piece of a much bigger plot involving snipers, nukes, a presidential kidnapping and an even gloomier vision of the future. Baldacci is not a particularly graceful writer, e.g., “Like all Secret Service agents, his suits were designed a little big in the chest, to disguise the bulge of the weapon.” Worse is the author’s chronic inability to draw convincing characters. Scooby-Doo had villains more complicated than these; distinctive quirks of the characters, such as one wearing 19th-century clothing, make them only mildly interesting. Baldacci himself seems only partly engaged in the task here. He writes as if he imagines his typical reader to be a business traveler staring down a long layover.

Sure to be a bestseller, but the guy’s phoning it in.

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2005

ISBN: 0-446-57738-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2005

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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