Vicarious pleasure for anyone wanting to see the scum of the world get its due.

THE KILLER COLLECTIVE

Series heroes join forces with other righteous killers to punish sexual predators in Eisler’s latest thriller (Zero Sum, 2017, etc.).

A secret internet site called Child’s Play features videos of horrible sexual abuse and torture of children. Feds suspect members of the Secret Service may be participants, but their investigation is inexplicably shut down. Meanwhile, John Rain specializes in “services” that appear to have natural causes, but he turns down a hit job on Livia Lone because he doesn’t kill women or children. Livia is a sex-crimes investigator for the Seattle PD and has a ferocious hatred for the world’s “freaks and predators.” Born in Thailand and originally named Labee, she was sold by her parents to the Lone family in Idaho, where she suffered unspeakable abuse. Now she works on both sides of the law, putting creeps in prison when she can—but “the only thing better than a rapist in prison was a rapist in the ground.” She has secretly killed at least a dozen of them, and she joins forces with professional killers such as Rain to bring down Child’s Play once and for all. The most interesting of the bunch are Dox, who helped Livia kill a child molester in Thailand and would “kill a whole lot of people” to protect her, and Delilah, the blonde Mossad agent who uses her body as well as her gun. One of their threats is Oliver Graham Enterprises (OGE—“you couldn’t spell rogue without O-G-E”), which wants to fight America’s wars and incidentally kill John Rain. The stakes may go even higher than “six active pederasts in the Secret Service” as the story reaches its bloody crescendo. It is rich in backstory, though it can stand alone. Still, Livia Lone (2016) is the ideal introduction to a sympathetic, damaged, and vengeful character.

Vicarious pleasure for anyone wanting to see the scum of the world get its due.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5039-0426-2

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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Sure to be a bestseller, but the guy’s phoning it in.

THE CAMEL CLUB

A lukewarm would-be potboiler of uninvolving intrigue about a kooky quartet of conspiracy theorists—one by the name of “Oliver Stone”—who witness the murder of a federal agent.

Almost 8,000 Americans have died in attacks on U.S. soil. Rocket-propelled grenades have pierced the White House, there’s been another prison fiasco in Afghanistan, a dozen soldiers are dying every day and the war has opened a new front on the Syrian border. Thus the author’s bleak imagining of the near future. Throughout, Baldacci (Hour Game, 2004, etc.) drops reliable twists, revealing the federal agent murder to be—surprise—a minuscule piece of a much bigger plot involving snipers, nukes, a presidential kidnapping and an even gloomier vision of the future. Baldacci is not a particularly graceful writer, e.g., “Like all Secret Service agents, his suits were designed a little big in the chest, to disguise the bulge of the weapon.” Worse is the author’s chronic inability to draw convincing characters. Scooby-Doo had villains more complicated than these; distinctive quirks of the characters, such as one wearing 19th-century clothing, make them only mildly interesting. Baldacci himself seems only partly engaged in the task here. He writes as if he imagines his typical reader to be a business traveler staring down a long layover.

Sure to be a bestseller, but the guy’s phoning it in.

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2005

ISBN: 0-446-57738-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2005

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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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