History has caught up to Wesley’s bleak odyssey, repeatedly rejected for publication decades ago but now unnervingly...

A BOMB BUILT IN HELL

Vachss’ very first novel, often plundered for his later fiction (That’s How I Roll, 2012, etc.) but never before published, traces the rise, or fall, of a homegrown terrorist.

To the untrained eye, Wesley never looks like anything but a loser. Headed for conviction in a gang fight, he agrees to enlist in the service instead of going to jail, but this time, the army doesn’t build men, and he’s tossed out of Korea with an undesirable discharge and soon headed for prison again. He falls under the sway of Carmine Trentoni, a gang leader who becomes his role model and guru, dispensing yards of Vachss’ trademark bitter wisdom (“think about the person you hate most in the world and smile”). Trentoni aims to turn Wesley into his legacy, an ice-cold hit man who’ll carry on the mobster’s enduring battle against the Man. Once he’s outlived his mentor and served his time, Wesley follows Trentoni’s detailed instructions, finding the cash Trentoni hid, contacting the mysterious gang lord Mr. Petraglia and setting up a rapid series of hits as precisely planned as they are brutal. But Wesley’s nihilism is deeper than Trentoni’s, and his escalating war against the establishment claims hundreds of victims: “[t]he people in the crowd on West 51st who got bombed by the grenade, the junkies blown up by the booby-trapped bag, whoever was within the fallout range of the building on Chrystie, the methadone clinic, the girl in the massage parlor….” After watching the effects of his assassination of Haitian dictator Papa Du’s son, Wesley realizes that not even his scorched-earth violence can bring about political change, and he prepares his own chilling exit.

History has caught up to Wesley’s bleak odyssey, repeatedly rejected for publication decades ago but now unnervingly prescient.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-95085-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless...

SPLIT SECOND

Two defrocked Secret Service Agents investigate the assassination of one presidential candidate and the kidnapping of another.

Baldacci (The Christmas Train, 2002, etc.) sets out with two plot strands. The first begins when something distracts Secret Service Agent Sean King and during that “split second,” presidential candidate Clyde Ritter is shot dead. King takes out the killer, but that’s not enough to save his reputation with the Secret Service. He retires and goes on to do often tedious but nonetheless always lucrative work (much like a legal thriller such as this) at a law practice. Plot two begins eight years later when another Secret Service Agent, Michelle Maxwell, lets presidential candidate John Bruno out of her sight for a few minutes at a wake for one of his close associates. He goes missing. Now Maxwell, too, gets in dutch with the SS. Though separated by time, the cases are similar and leave several questions unanswered. What distracted King at the rally? Bruno had claimed his friend’s widow called him to the funeral home. The widow (one of the few characters here to have any life) says she never called Bruno. Who set him up? Who did a chambermaid at Ritter’s hotel blackmail? And who is the man in the Buick shadowing King’s and Maxwell’s every move? King is a handsome, rich divorce, Maxwell an attractive marathon runner. Will they join forces and find each other kind of, well, appealing? But of course. The two former agents traverse the countryside, spinning endless hypotheses before the onset, at last, of a jerrybuilt conclusion that begs credibility and offers few surprises.

Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless concoction.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2003

ISBN: 0-446-53089-1

Page Count: 406

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2003

Did you like this book?

more