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A classic of its genre, equal to the best of Eric Ambler and Patrick O’Brian—and, beyond genre, not far below the levels and...

This marvelous thriller—a seafaring mystery that pointedly evokes the immortal romances of Melville, Stevenson, and Conrad—is the fifth (and best) fiction in English translation yet from the very popular Spanish author of The Club Dumas (1997) and The Seville Communion (1998).

Its plot is skillfully and quickly set in motion when Merchant Marine officer Manuel Coy a thoughtful, bookish (though “not intellectual”) loner who is confined to land following a shipwreck that had occurred during his watch, attends an auction of “naval objects” in Barcelona. Coy observes a tense bidding war over a seemingly obscure 18th-century atlas, and later follows its winner, a beautiful blond woman named Tanger Soto, to the Madrid museum where she works as a researcher. He’s eventually enlisted in her search for the wreck of the Dei Gloria, a brigantine owned by Jesuit brethren (and carrying an undisclosed precious cargo) that had been sunk in 1767, probably by a pursuing pirate ship, off the southern coast of Spain. Pérez-Reverte paces his tale expertly, shifting its focus among the dangers that threaten Tanger’s undertaking (including a sinister “treasure hunter” and his “menacing dwarf” hireling, a former Argentinean death-squad mercenary), Coy’s helpless fixation on the mystery woman who simultaneously reels him in and keeps him at bay, and an impressive wealth of nautical and navigational technique and lore. The story takes a dazzling turn 100 pages from its end, when its omniscient narrator “introduces” himself (along with other, even more crucial revelations), and ends up smashingly, with a “tragicomedy of betrayals” that underscore the embittered Coy’s resemblance to the resigned, burnt-out characters of (his favorite author) Joseph Conrad: “weary heroes, . . . aware of the danger of dreaming when at the helm.” In a virtually perfect fusion of absorbing action and precise, intricate characterization, Pérez-Reverte magically sustains the tension and suspense over a span of almost 500 pages.

A classic of its genre, equal to the best of Eric Ambler and Patrick O’Brian—and, beyond genre, not far below the levels and depths plumbed by Melville and Conrad themselves.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-15-100534-6

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2001

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

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. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Irritatingly trite woman-in-periler from lawyer-turned-novelist Baldacci. Moving away from the White House and the white-shoe Washington law firms of his previous bestsellers (Absolute Power, 1996; Total Control, 1997), Baldacci comes up with LuAnn Tyler, a spunky, impossibly beautiful, white-trash truck stop waitress with a no-good husband and a terminally cute infant daughter in tow. Some months after the birth of Lisa, LuAnn gets a phone call summoning her to a make-shift office in an unrented storefront of the local shopping mall. There, she gets a Faustian offer from a Mr. Jackson, a monomaniacal, cross-dressing manipulator who apparently knows the winning numbers in the national lottery before the numbers are drawn. It seems that LuAnn fits the media profile of what a lottery winner should be—poor, undereducated but proud—and if she's willing to buy the right ticket at the right time and transfer most of her winnings to Jackson, she'll be able to retire in luxury. Jackson fails to inform her, however, that if she refuses his offer, he'll have her killed. Before that can happen, as luck would have it, LuAnn barely escapes death when one of husband Duane's drug deals goes bad. She hops on a first-class Amtrak sleeper to Manhattan with a hired executioner in pursuit. But executioner Charlie, one of Jackson's paid handlers, can't help but hear wedding bells when he sees LuAnn cooing with her daughter. Alas, a winning $100- million lottery drawing complicates things. Jackson spirits LuAnn and Lisa away to Sweden, with Charlie in pursuit. Never fear. Not only will LuAnn escape a series of increasingly violent predicaments, but she'll also outwit Jackson, pay an enormous tax bill to the IRS, and have enough left over to honeymoon in Switzerland. Too preposterous to work as feminine wish-fulfillment, too formulaic to be suspenseful. (Book-of-the-Month Club main selection)

Pub Date: Dec. 2, 1997

ISBN: 0-446-52259-7

Page Count: 528

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1997

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