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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A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be...

BADLANDS

Box takes another break from his highly successful Joe Pickett series (Stone Cold, 2014, etc.) for a stand-alone about a police detective, a developmentally delayed boy, and a package everyone in North Dakota wants to grab.

Cassandra Dewell can’t leave Montana’s Lewis and Clark County fast enough for her new job as chief investigator for Jon Kirkbride, sheriff of Bakken County. She leaves behind no memories worth keeping: her husband is dead, her boss has made no bones about disliking her, and she’s looking forward to new responsibilities and the higher salary underwritten by North Dakota’s sudden oil boom. But Bakken County has its own issues. For one thing, it’s cold—a whole lot colder than the coldest weather Cassie’s ever imagined. For another, the job she turns out to have been hired for—leading an investigation her new boss doesn’t feel he can entrust to his own force—makes her queasy. The biggest problem, though, is one she doesn’t know about until it slaps her in the face. A fatal car accident that was anything but accidental has jarred loose a stash of methamphetamines and cash that’s become the center of a battle between the Sons of Freedom, Bakken County’s traditional drug sellers, and MS-13, the Salvadorian upstarts who are muscling in on their territory. It’s a setup that leaves scant room for law enforcement officers or for Kyle Westergaard, the 12-year-old paperboy damaged since birth by fetal alcohol syndrome, who’s walked away from the wreck with a prize all too many people would kill for.

A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be welcome to return and tie up the gaping loose end Box leaves. The unrelenting cold makes this the perfect beach read.

Pub Date: July 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-58321-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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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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