The overly complicated mystery plays second fiddle to the sexual tango between two psychic partners.

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Quick returns to 1930s California (Tightrope, 2019, etc.) with another sexy but derivative thriller.

After refusing to marry the man her wealthy parents favored, fiercely independent Vivian Brazier moved from San Francisco to Adelina Beach to pursue her career as an art photographer. Her mother and sister, Lyra, who becomes engaged to Vivian’s reject, send her gifts, but her father has cut off support, so she does studio portraits and freelance photojournalism to support herself. Studying her own photos surrounding the murder of Hollywood star Clara Carstairs by the Dagger Killer leads her to believe the perp is a photographer, and her tip to the police puts them on the right path. But a chance to sell her work at Fenella Penfield’s gallery falls through, and Vivian is stunned when she uses her sixth sense to learn that Fenella is furious over Vivian’s photos of nude men. Meantime, Nick Sundridge, who works with his dog, Rex, as a private eye, is striving to harness his strange fever dreams to help his investigations. After Vivian’s narrow escape from the Dagger Killer, Nick arrives to warn her that she’s marked for death by a hired killer. He’s an emissary for Luther Pell, who is an old wartime friend of his uncle's and who runs a nightclub in Burning Cove and has connections to the FBI and other government agencies. Nick convinces Vivian that he can protect her by posing as her assistant while trying to find the killer whose coded journal of poems contains the names of his victims and the methods he’s used to kill them. Escaping when the killer tries to burn them alive, Nick and Vivian (and Rex) move to the Burning Cove Hotel, where they set a trap for their quarry while the flame of their attraction burns brighter.

The overly complicated mystery plays second fiddle to the sexual tango between two psychic partners.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0684-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: tomorrow

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Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

ONE GOOD DEED

Thriller writer Baldacci (A Minute to Midnight, 2019, etc.) launches a new detective series starring World War II combat vet Aloysius Archer.

In 1949, Archer is paroled from Carderock Prison (he was innocent) and must report regularly to his parole officer, Ernestine Crabtree (she’s “damn fine-looking”). Parole terms forbid his visiting bars or loose women, which could become a problem. Trouble starts when businessman Hank Pittleman offers Archer $100 to recover a ’47 Cadillac that’s collateral for a debt owed by Lucas Tuttle, who readily agrees he owes the money. But Tuttle wants his daughter Jackie back—she’s Pittleman’s girlfriend, and she won’t return to Daddy. Archer finds the car, but it’s been torched. With no collateral to collect, he may have to return his hundred bucks. Meanwhile, Crabtree gets Archer the only job available, butchering hogs at the slaughterhouse. He’d killed plenty of men in combat, and now he needs peace. The Pittleman job doesn’t provide that peace, but at least it doesn’t involve bashing hogs’ brains in. People wind up dead and Archer becomes a suspect. So he noses around and shows that he might have the chops to be a good private investigator, a shamus. This is an era when gals have gams, guys say dang and keep extra Lucky Strikes in their hatbands, and a Lady Liberty half-dollar buys a good meal. The dialogue has a '40s noir feel: “And don’t trust nobody.…I don’t care how damn pretty they are.” There’s adult entertainment at the Cat’s Meow, cheap grub at the Checkered Past, and just enough clichés to prove that no one’s highfalutin. Readers will like Archer. He’s a talented man who enjoys detective stories, won’t keep ill-gotten gains, and respects women. All signs suggest a sequel where he hangs out a shamus shingle.

Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5387-5056-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2019

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Great storytelling about the pursuit of extrajudicial justice.

ONE MINUTE OUT

Ninth in the author’s Gray Man series (Mission Critical, 2019, etc.) in which “the most elite assassin in the world” has his hands full.

Ex–CIA Agent Courtland Gentry (the Gray Man) has Serbian war criminal Ratko Babic in his gun sight, but when he decides instead to kill the old beast face to face, he uncovers a massive sex-slavery ring. “I don’t get off on this,” the Gray Man lies to the reader as he stabs a sentry. “I only kill bad people.” Of course he does. If there weren’t an endless supply of them to slay, he’d have little reason to live. Now, countless young Eastern European women are being lured into sexual slavery and fed into an international pipeline, sold worldwide through “the Consortium.” Bad guys refer to their captives as products, not people. They are “merchandise,” but their plight haunts the Gray Man, so of course he is going to rescue as many women as he can. The road to their salvation will be paved with the dead as he enlists a team of fighters to strike the enemy, which includes a South African dude who is giddy for the chance to meet and kill the Gray Man. Meanwhile, Europol analyst Talyssa Corbu meets the hero while on a personal mission to rescue her sister. “You don’t seem like a psychopath,” she tells him. Indeed, though he could play one on TV. Corbu and her sister are tough and likable characters while the director of the Consortium leads a double life as family man and flesh merchant. Human trafficking is an enormous real-life problem, so it’s satisfying to witness our larger-than-life protagonist put his combat skills to good use. There will be a sequel, of course. As a friend tells the wounded Gentry at the end, he’ll be off killing bozos again before he knows it.

Great storytelling about the pursuit of extrajudicial justice.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09891-2

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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