Berenson’s highly enjoyable series continues with more of the rock-solid same.

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THE SHADOW PATROL

Former CIA tough guy John Wells is back, and this time he’s busting a heroin-smuggling ring operating out of an isolated Army base in Afghanistan.

After a disastrous meeting with his estranged son, Wells accepts a freelance mission offered by his old agency boss Ellis Shafer. In the aftermath of a suicide bombing that killed the station chief and several of the best agents in the CIA’s Kabul station, Wells is supposed to go to Afghanistan, see how things are going, then report back to CIA chief Vince Duto. More importantly, there have been reports that a mole in the Kabul station is working with a local Taliban leader, possibly to smuggle heroin. An analyst in the Kabul station thinks a group called the Thuwanis may be the source of the heroin, and that soldiers in the U.S. Army may be involved. Posing as a wealthy Saudi anxious to help fund jihad, Wells visits the Thuwani compound and uncovers some key information. But as he and Shafer unravel the threads of the conspiracy, they just can’t seem to figure out a motive, which may have more to do with revenge than money. Fans of Berenson’s previous Wells novels (The Faithful Spy, 2006, etc.) will find more to like here, including plenty of superbly paced action sequences, and the kind of background that suggests a better-than-average understanding of what soldiers on the ground actually see in Afghanistan. Skeptics will continue to roll their eyes at Wells’ superhuman ability to, almost at the drop of a hat, pass for a national from whichever Middle Eastern country best suits his needs. There are also a few too-convenient plot twists, including a head-scratching scene wherein a conspirator in the smuggling ring is discovered thanks to the fact that he has “friended” a co-conspirator on Facebook. However, the prose is airtight, the pacing is excellent and the phenomenal action sequences more than make up for minor weaknesses in the plot.

Berenson’s highly enjoyable series continues with more of the rock-solid same.

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-399-15829-2

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2011

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Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

THE SILENT PATIENT

A woman accused of shooting her husband six times in the face refuses to speak.

"Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband. They had been married for seven years. They were both artists—Alicia was a painter, and Gabriel was a well-known fashion photographer." Michaelides' debut is narrated in the voice of psychotherapist Theo Faber, who applies for a job at the institution where Alicia is incarcerated because he's fascinated with her case and believes he will be able to get her to talk. The narration of the increasingly unrealistic events that follow is interwoven with excerpts from Alicia's diary. Ah, yes, the old interwoven diary trick. When you read Alicia's diary you'll conclude the woman could well have been a novelist instead of a painter because it contains page after page of detailed dialogue, scenes, and conversations quite unlike those in any journal you've ever seen. " 'What's the matter?' 'I can't talk about it on the phone, I need to see you.' 'It's just—I'm not sure I can make it up to Cambridge at the minute.' 'I'll come to you. This afternoon. Okay?' Something in Paul's voice made me agree without thinking about it. He sounded desperate. 'Okay. Are you sure you can't tell me about it now?' 'I'll see you later.' Paul hung up." Wouldn't all this appear in a diary as "Paul wouldn't tell me what was wrong"? An even more improbable entry is the one that pins the tail on the killer. While much of the book is clumsy, contrived, and silly, it is while reading passages of the diary that one may actually find oneself laughing out loud.

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30169-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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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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