A solid cat-and-mouse thriller with a refreshing breakout character.


A compromised CIA agent makes a dangerous trek west while his stateside handler searches for answers.

In Lebanon, CIA deep cover specialist Marc Portman barely escapes an attack by an unsteady sniper. Acting quickly, Portman, who narrates his chapters in a gritty first-person, skillfully takes out his would-be Russian assassin and is rewarded by finding a picture of himself on the corpse. At that point, the tale embarks on a round-the-world circuit from Beirut to Moscow, where Konstantin Basalayev expresses frustration at the failed mission, to Langley, Virginia, where Portman’s CIA handler, Brian Callahan, expresses frustration that he’s the only one concerned with Portman’s safety. Portman’s rescue in Lebanon has come from a most unlikely source: middle-aged British operative Isobel Hunt, formerly with MI6, now an independent contractor with Her Majesty’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office. Just as she scoops up Portman and drives him to a safe house in a hijacked jeep, the maverick Isobel also hijacks and galvanizes Magson’s conventional plot and familiar characters. And Magson knows it: He credits “the real Isobel Hunt” in his acknowledgements. Sadly, after getting Portman safely to Cyprus, Isobel exits the story. In her place, Portman connects with CIA agent Lindsay Citera, but a key question nags Callahan: Who’s the CIA mole endangering Portman’s life? Writing with a crisp authority that’s both familiar and involving, Magson builds tension steadily. This author of three action series should consider a spinoff for the singular Ms. Hunt.

A solid cat-and-mouse thriller with a refreshing breakout character.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7278-5027-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Severn House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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Top-drawer crime fiction. The authors are tough on the hero, but the hero is tough.


Patterson and Ellis put their characters through hell in this hard-edged second installment of their Black Book series after The Black Book (2017).

A young girl is one of four people gunned down in a “very, very bad” K-Town drive-by shooting in Chicago. Police are under intense political pressure to solve it, so Detective Billy Harney is assigned to the Special Operations Section to put the brakes on the gang violence on the West Side. His new partner is Detective Carla Griffin, whom colleagues describe as “sober as an undertaker” and “as fun as a case of hemorrhoids.” And she looks like the last thing he needs, a pill popper. (But is she?) Department muckety-mucks want Harney to fail, and Griffin is supposed to spy on him. The poor guy already has a hell of a backstory: His daughter died and his wife committed suicide (or did she?) four years earlier, he’s been shot in the head, charged with murder (and exonerated), and helped put his own father in prison. (Nothing like a tormented hero!) Now the deaths still haunt him while he and Griffin begin to suspect they’re not looking at a simple turf war starring the Imperial Gangster Nation. Meanwhile, the captain in Internal Affairs is deep in the pocket of some bad guys who run an international human trafficking ring, and he loathes Harney. The protagonist is lucky to have Patti, his sister and fellow detective, as his one reliable friend who lets him know he’s being set up. The authors do masterful work creating flawed characters to root for or against, and they certainly pile up the troubles for Billy Harney. Abundant nasty twists will hold readers’ rapt attention in this dark, violent, and fast-moving thriller.

Top-drawer crime fiction. The authors are tough on the hero, but the hero is tough.

Pub Date: March 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-49940-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.


In December 1926, mystery writer Agatha Christie really did disappear for 11 days. Was it a hoax? Or did her husband resort to foul play?

When Agatha meets Archie on a dance floor in 1912, the obscure yet handsome pilot quickly sweeps her off her feet with his daring. Archie seems smitten with her. Defying her family’s expectations, Agatha consents to marry Archie rather than her intended, the reliable yet boring Reggie Lucy. Although the war keeps them apart, straining their early marriage, Agatha finds meaningful work as a nurse and dispensary assistant, jobs that teach her a lot about poisons, knowledge that helps shape her early short stories and novels. While Agatha’s career flourishes after the war, Archie suffers setback after setback. Determined to keep her man happy, Agatha finds herself cooking elaborate meals, squelching her natural affections for their daughter (after all, Archie must always feel like the most important person in her life), and downplaying her own troubles, including her grief over her mother's death. Nonetheless, Archie grows increasingly morose. In fact, he is away from home the day Agatha disappears. By the time Detective Chief Constable Kenward arrives, Agatha has already been missing for a day. After discovering—and burning—a mysterious letter from Agatha, Archie is less than eager to help the police. His reluctance and arrogance work against him, and soon the police, the newspapers, the Christies’ staff, and even his daughter’s classmates suspect him of harming his wife. Benedict concocts a worthy mystery of her own, as chapters alternate between Archie’s negotiation of the investigation and Agatha’s recounting of their relationship. She keeps the reader guessing: Which narrator is reliable? Who is the real villain?

A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2020


Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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