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

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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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This is fast-paced, nonstop fun. Cussler fans will gobble it up.

JOURNEY OF THE PHARAOHS

Rumors of lost Egyptian treasure spark high adventure in this 17th in the NUMA series featuring oceanographer Kurt Austin and his crew (Sea of Greed, 2018, etc.).

Over 3,000 years ago, grave robbers sail away with loot from a pharaoh’s tomb. In 1927, Jake Melbourne and his plane disappear in his attempt at a trans-Atlantic flight. In the present day, arms merchants known as the Bloodstone Group have taken to stealing antiquities. They are looking for a “treasure both vast and glorious” that hieroglyphics say was shipped down the Nile and out of Egypt, perhaps even west across the Atlantic. (Holy scurvy! That must’ve been a lot of hard rowing!) The criminals are known to MI5 as “very dangerous people" and "merchants selling death.” Perfectly willing to kill everyone in their way, they are aided by mechanical crows and Fydor and Xandra, nasty sibling assassins jointly called the Toymaker. Such are the foes faced by Austin and his team from the National Underwater and Marine Agency. Of course, Austin has no interest in profit; he will gladly leave the ancient riches wherever they are. Action arrives early and often, and the failed pre-Lindbergh flight fits in neatly. Cussler and Brown concoct a nifty plot with disparate, sometimes over-the-top twists that will make even hardcore adventure fans say “Wow!” Expect claustrophobic gunfights, aerial combat, a life-threatening flood, messages from the dead, coffins of gold—and a vintage classic car, because why not? “We’re going to steal the greatest deposit of Egyptian treasure the world has ever known,” brags the evil mastermind. But he’ll have to climb over the series hero’s dead body first, which—no plot spoiler here—ain’t gonna happen.

This is fast-paced, nonstop fun. Cussler fans will gobble it up.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-08308-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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