Wicked action sequences, smoothly delineated local color and moments of introspection capture Rain in fine, fraught form.

THE LAST ASSASSIN

Pffft. The man quivered and sank to the ground. . . . The other guy didn’t see it. . . . Pffft. I dropped him, too, another head shot.” When high-end assassin John Rain is working for personal rather than professional reasons, the bodies pile up fast.

This fifth volume in Eisler’s series (Killing Rain, 2005, etc.) finds Rain trying to reestablish contact with his former lover, Midori. Through friends, Rain has learned he is likely the father of Midori’s baby son. The problem: Midori is the daughter of one of Rain’s hits, and she knows it. Another problem: One of Rain’s many enemies, the yakuza Yamaoto, is using Midori and the baby to lure Rain into his murderous sights. This will not stop Rain from meeting his son; he also harbors the hope that he can reunite with Midori. Even in his strange and emotionally messy world, that would be improbable—Midori, after all, loved her father. Still, their first meeting offers a glimmer of the prospect. More importantly, storywise, once Rain lays eyes on his son, he will not stand for anything threatening the child’s wellbeing. A trail of bodies follows Rain as he tracks the root problem, Yamaoto, and the dénouement is a nice piece of mayhem. Rain’s friend Dox, a freelance sniper, returns to lend a hand. So does Delilah, a Mossad agent placed on leave for giving Rain too much help with his last caper, who wants her relationship with Rain to move beyond that of lover. This puts Rain in a quandary regarding Midori, and it highlights Eisler’s special knack for bringing nuance to the implications of Rain’s nihilism. Can love really conquer all? Is Rain’s retirement from work possible? When, if ever, is it acceptable to kill? Is he, purely and simply, delusional?

Wicked action sequences, smoothly delineated local color and moments of introspection capture Rain in fine, fraught form.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-399-15359-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2006

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless...

SPLIT SECOND

Two defrocked Secret Service Agents investigate the assassination of one presidential candidate and the kidnapping of another.

Baldacci (The Christmas Train, 2002, etc.) sets out with two plot strands. The first begins when something distracts Secret Service Agent Sean King and during that “split second,” presidential candidate Clyde Ritter is shot dead. King takes out the killer, but that’s not enough to save his reputation with the Secret Service. He retires and goes on to do often tedious but nonetheless always lucrative work (much like a legal thriller such as this) at a law practice. Plot two begins eight years later when another Secret Service Agent, Michelle Maxwell, lets presidential candidate John Bruno out of her sight for a few minutes at a wake for one of his close associates. He goes missing. Now Maxwell, too, gets in dutch with the SS. Though separated by time, the cases are similar and leave several questions unanswered. What distracted King at the rally? Bruno had claimed his friend’s widow called him to the funeral home. The widow (one of the few characters here to have any life) says she never called Bruno. Who set him up? Who did a chambermaid at Ritter’s hotel blackmail? And who is the man in the Buick shadowing King’s and Maxwell’s every move? King is a handsome, rich divorce, Maxwell an attractive marathon runner. Will they join forces and find each other kind of, well, appealing? But of course. The two former agents traverse the countryside, spinning endless hypotheses before the onset, at last, of a jerrybuilt conclusion that begs credibility and offers few surprises.

Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless concoction.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2003

ISBN: 0-446-53089-1

Page Count: 406

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2003

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