A solid display of Dershowitz’s legal chops, if not always his narrative ones.

THE TRIALS OF ZION

The fictional alter ego for famed lawyer Dershowitz (The Case for Moral Clarity, 2009, etc.) takes on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in this busy, sometimes preposterous thriller.

The third novel starring Dershowitz-like defense attorney Abe Ringel opens with a jaw-dropping terrorist act: The U.S. president, Israeli prime minister and Hamas leader are all killed by a bomb at a public ceremony intended to commemorate the creation of a Palestinian state. With any hope of Middle East peace literally blown apart, Abe is understandably anxious about his daughter, Emma, who’s moved from Boston to Jerusalem to work for a human-rights group. His worries are quickly justified: Not long after her arrival, she’s kidnapped by pro-Palestinian Marxists led by a man whose brother, Faisal, is being held on suspicion of planting the bomb. To save his daughter from execution, Abe must successfully defend Faisal in an Israeli court without letting on that he’s being blackmailed. The novel’s courtroom scenes give Dershowitz an opportunity to wax legalistic on the differences between the American and Israeli judicial process, and there are occasional glimpses into forensics labs, terrorist safe houses and interrogation rooms. But the author’s interests are more broadly sociological: He wants to make clear how difficult it is to detect true intentions among the region’s Jews, Muslims, Communists and Christians. (Double-crosses are abundant.) The author’s style is clean and forceful, built on tight, clipped paragraphs, but his handling of the broad cast of characters isn’t always graceful; a sudden appearance of a key bit of evidence seems overly convenient, and a serious predicament for Emma is explained away with little drama. Though the novel opens with thoughtful considerations of the Middle East conflict that shed light on why it’s so intractable, Dershowitz is ultimately compelled to keep the story moving, which leads to a climax that not only feels slightly cartoonish but sidesteps addressing the divide between Israelis and Palestinians. Chapters that delve into family back stories are mainly distracting, and a thin romantic subplot only proves that love stories aren’t the author’s bailiwick.

A solid display of Dershowitz’s legal chops, if not always his narrative ones.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-446-57673-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2010

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Lame but, like its predecessors, bound for bestsellerdom.

HOUR GAME

A serial killer with a sense of history is the baddie in this latest from Baldacci, one of the reigning kings of potboilers (Split Second, 2003, etc.).

He kills, he leaves clues, he flatters through imitation: Son of Sam, the San Francisco Zodiac killer, Richard Ramirez, John Wayne Gracy, and so on down a sanguinary list of accredited members of the Monsters’ Hall of Fame. Suddenly, the landscape of poor little Wrightsburg, Virginia, is littered with corpses, and ex-Secret Service agents Sean King and Michelle Maxwell have their hands full. That’s because bewildered, beleaguered Chief of Police Todd Williams has turned to the newly minted private investigating firm of King and Maxwell for desperately needed (unofficial) help. Even these ratiocinative wizards, however, admit to puzzlement. “But I'm not getting this,” says Michelle. “Why commit murders in similar styles to past killers as a copycat would and then write letters making it clear you’re not them?” Excellent question, and it goes pretty much unanswered. Never mind—enter the battling Battles, a family with the requisite number of sins and secrets to qualify fully as hot southern Gothic and to prop up a plot in need. Bobby Battles, the patriarch, is bedridden, but Remmy, his wife, is one lively mischief-making steel magnolia. She’s brought breaking-and-entering charges against decent local handyman Junior Deaver, who as a result languishes in the county jail. Convinced of his innocence, Junior’s lawyer hires King & Maxwell to sniff around for exculpatory evidence. Well, will the two plot streams flow together? You betcha. Will the copycat-serial-killer at one point decide that King and Maxwell are just too clever to live? Inevitably. And when at last that CCSK’s identity is revealed and his crimes explained (talkily and tediously), will readers be satisfied? Only the charitable among them.

Lame but, like its predecessors, bound for bestsellerdom.

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 2004

ISBN: 0-446-53108-1

Page Count: 440

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2004

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