SAFE HOUSE

Child-abuse specialist Burke expands his righteous field of operations—his one-man harrowing of our modern cityscape—to cover an Aryan supremacist network of terrorists. Not by design, of course. Burke and his ragtag band of urban avengers—Clarence, the Prof, the Mole, Max the Silent—start off much closer to their usual turf, on a self-ordained mission to take down domestic abusers who've turned into stalkers of their terrified women. Their eye-for-an-eye campaign leads them to Crystal Beth, who runs a shelter for women who have nowhere else to go. Vachss (False Allegations, 1996, etc.) establishes the safe house's credentials by admitting testimony from its desperate clients: the rape victim whose husband kept raping her ``because I owed him''; the S/M player whose latest playmate refused to quit the game; the cyber-chump who was seduced by a predator who disseminated a falsely heroic image of himself over the Internet; the porn star whose most reverential fan had turned into an obsessive erotomaniac. But no story is more heartrending than that of hugely pregnant Marla, whose white-supremacist husband Lothar Bucholtz (born Larry Bretton, a name he jettisoned because it sounded too Jewish) is waiting for her to deliver the son he's already named Gerhardt so that he can spirit him off to his coven of neo-Nazis. When Burke and Co. try to move against Lothar, they run up against a brick wall named Pryce, who tells them Lothar can't be touched. It doesn't take long for Burke to work out the reason why: Lothar is the designated informant who's going to bring down his pack of bombing buddies, and custody of Gerhardt, along with immunity for his earlier peccadilloes, is part of the price the US government has included in his severance package. A lesser crew of vigilantes would be stymied at this point, but the scheme Burke hatches to take Lothar down is a thing of beauty. Think of a lesser James Bond adventure, minus the high-tech gadgetry and the rules.

Pub Date: April 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-375-40084-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1998

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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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THE MIDNIGHT CLUB

Patterson's thrillers (Virgin, 1980; Black Market, 1986) have plummeted in quality since his promising debut in The Thomas Berryman Number (1976)—with this latest being the sorriest yet: a clanky and witless policer about a criminal mastermind and the cop sworn to take him down. Aside from watching sympathetic homicide dick John ("Stef") Stefanovich comeing to terms with a wheelchair-bound life—legacy of a shotgun blast to the back by drug-and-gun-running archfiend Alexandre St.-Germain—the major interest here lies in marvelling at the author's trashing of fiction convention. The whopper comes early: although St.-Germain is explicity described as being machine-gunned to death by three vigilante cops in a swank brothel (". . .a submachine gun blast nearly ripped off the head of Alexandre St.-Germain"; "The mobster's head and most of his neck had been savaged by the machine-gun volley. The body looked desecrated. . ."), before you know it this latter-day Moriarty is stepping unscathed out of an airplane. What gives? Authorial cheating, that's what—thinly glossed over with some mumbling later on about a "body double." Not that St.-Germain's ersatz death generated much suspense anyway, with subsequent action focusing on, among other items, the gory killings of assorted mob bosses by one of the vigilante cops, and Stef's viewing of pornographic tapes confiscated from that brothel. But readers generous enough to plod on will get to read about the newly Lazarus-ized St.-Germain's crass efforts to revitalize and consolidate the world's crime syndicates ("the Midnight Club"), Stef's predictable tumble for a sexy true-crime writer, and how (isn't one miracle enough for Patterson?) at book's end Stef walks again and gets to embrace a rogue cop who's murdered several people. Ironsides with a badge and a lobotomy.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 1988

ISBN: 0446676411

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1988

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