DOUBLE ESPRESSO

Another madcap adventure for New Jersey parole officers Loretta Kovacs and Frank Marvelli, assigned this time to bring back an errant hit man who just happens to be Marvelli’s brother-in-law. Loretta’s star has fallen even further since Devil’s Food (1997). She’s still frustrated that the assistant warden’s job she botched dumped her into the Jump Squad; she’s still fretting about her queenly weight and Marvelli’s failure to get interested in her; and now that she’s gone cold turkey on coffee, she’d be ready to check into a methadone/caffeine clinic if she hadn’t found out that Sammy Teitlebaum, brother of the late wife Marvelli can’t get over, has jumped bail and gone after King Rat, nonpareil mob informant Gus Rispoli. The US Marshals are holding Rispoli in a secret prison for protected felons universally known as My Blue Heaven, which turns out, after the usual that’s-so-secret-we-can’t-tell-you balderdash, to be located outside Seattle, coffee capital of the universe. So Loretta and Marvelli head for the West Coast, little knowing that Veronica Springer, the FBI liaison with the Marshal Service, is not only despicably svelte but secretly in cahoots with Taffy Demaggio, the crooked medical-parts supplier who ordered the hit on Rispoli. In case those complications aren’t enough, Rene’s kid sister Jennifer (Sammy’s estranged wife), when she pops up, is the spitting image of her late sister, and very affectionate toward her brother-in-law; and Bruno throws in Jerry and Larry, twins whose libidos and handguns are a lot bigger than their I.Q.’s, to give every third scene another comical spin. The result is decaf Elmore Leonard, a synthetic but highly entertaining whirligig of Mexican standoffs, in which it makes perfect sense for two guys trying to kill each other to argue at gunpoint about the etiquette of a good hit. As for what keeps Bruno from scaling the heights of Leonard’s mobbed-up farces: Be warned that when Loretta finally breaks down and orders a double espresso, Bruno cuts away before she even gets a chance to drink it.

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 1998

ISBN: 0-312-86650-X

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Forge

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how...

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THE A LIST

A convicted killer’s list of five people he wants dead runs the gamut from the wife he’s already had murdered to franchise heroine Ali Reynolds.

Back in the day, women came from all over to consult Santa Clarita fertility specialist Dr. Edward Gilchrist. Many of them left his care happily pregnant, never dreaming that the father of the babies they carried was none other than the physician himself, who donated his own sperm rather than that of the handsome, athletic, disease-free men pictured in his scrapbook. When Alexandra Munsey’s son, Evan, is laid low by the kidney disease he’s inherited from his biological father and she returns to Gilchrist in search of the donor’s medical records, the roof begins to fall in on him. By the time it’s done falling, he’s serving a life sentence in Folsom Prison for commissioning the death of his wife, Dawn, the former nurse and sometime egg donor who’d turned on him. With nothing left to lose, Gilchrist tattoos himself with the initials of five people he blames for his fall: Dawn; Leo Manuel Aurelio, the hit man he’d hired to dispose of her; Kaitlyn Todd, the nurse/receptionist who took Dawn’s place; Alex Munsey, whose search for records upset his apple cart; and Ali Reynolds, the TV reporter who’d helped put Alex in touch with the dozen other women who formed the Progeny Project because their children looked just like hers. No matter that Ali’s been out of both California and the news business for years; Gilchrist and his enablers know that revenge can’t possibly be served too cold. Wonder how far down that list they’ll get before Ali, aided once more by Frigg, the methodical but loose-cannon AI first introduced in Duel to the Death (2018), turns on them?

Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how little the boundary-challenged AI, who gets into the case more or less inadvertently, differs from your standard human sidekick with issues.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5101-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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The loose ends that make this the least satisfactory of Joe’s three cases to date still don’t inhibit Box’s gift for nonstop...

WINTERKILL

The latest in an award-winning series set in the Bighorn Mountains (Savage Run, 2002, etc.).

Minutes after Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett arrests Lamar Gardiner, District Supervisor for the Twelve Sleep National Forest, for firing into a herd of elk, killing seven animals and blindly continuing to reload with cigarettes after he runs out of shells, Gardiner manages to handcuff Joe to his steering wheel and bolt off into a winter storm, only to turn up pinned to a tree with a pair of arrows, his throat cut. And things get even messier from that point on. The attack on a federal agent, together with reports that the Nation of the Rocky Mountain Sovereign Citizens has established an encampment in Twelve Sleep, brings gung-ho US Forest Service investigator Melinda Strickland and FBI sharpshooter Dick Munker, a veteran of Waco and Ruby Ridge, to town. Strickland maintains that she’s just trying to get justice for a murdered official, but she seems awfully eager to tie the perp to the Sovereigns. By the time Joe arrests one of Gardiner’s disappointing killers and identifies the other, Strickland and Munker are already planning an all-out attack on the encampment. The prospect is a personal nightmare for Joe, since Jeannie Keeley, the drifter whose abandoned daughter April Joe and his wife have been trying to adopt, has reclaimed April and spirited her off to the dubious shelter of the Sovereigns.

The loose ends that make this the least satisfactory of Joe’s three cases to date still don’t inhibit Box’s gift for nonstop action and his ability to see every side of the most divisive issues in the West.

Pub Date: May 12, 2003

ISBN: 0-399-15045-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2003

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