What’s missing in this Saturday morning cartoon of a book is a story that makes sense and a big, funny dog named Scooby to...



Maines (Bulletproof Mascara, 2010) strikes a familiar chord in this flimsy tale about an undercover cosmetic-company spy and the rock star she’s trying to protect.

Nikki Lanier is a redheaded whirlwind: She’s beautiful, quick-witted, a deadly martial artist who slips effortlessly into a size two without holding in her stomach. Nikki isn’t simply perfect, though, she’s part of Carrie Mae, a Mary Kay–like cosmetics company with a top-secret spy division that dispatches its secret and highly trained operatives across the world in the cause of justice for oppressed women. This time, fresh off a break-up with her CIA boyfriend, Nikki, speaker of six languages and possessing an Olympics firearms capability, steps right into the Paris leg of Kit Masters rock tour. The evil Cano, who killed Kit’s father many years ago, is also targeting Kit, the son of another Carrie Mae agent. Kit’s mom, Camille, a Brit with a grudge, would do anything to get Nikki off her son’s case, but Nikki sticks with Kit. She saves his life several times (unfortunately for the bad guys she only shoots dead center, even on the run), while racing against time to figure out who on his team could be in league with Cano. Set against the backdrop of Paris, the writer has a way with a quick line, but the plot wanders in silly circles, and most of the action seems jammed into the story just to show how incredibly efficient, smart and awesome the heroine is in comparison to everyone else. The writing, though pleasant enough, is littered with conversations in which the characters snort, sparkle, blush, laugh, smirk, whine and fall prey to many annoying adverbs along the way. By the end, Nikki has, with the help of a cartoonish group of Carrie Mae buddies, almost single-handedly resolved the issue without breaking a nail.

What’s missing in this Saturday morning cartoon of a book is a story that makes sense and a big, funny dog named Scooby to give the readers some reason to care if the good guys win.

Pub Date: April 26, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-7432-9279-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2011

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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. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Child builds tension to unbearable extremes, then blows it out in sharply choreographed violence, even if his plot has more...


From the Jack Reacher series , Vol. 5

Smashingly suspenseful fifth in Child’s series (Running Blind, 2000, etc.) lands this British author’s rootless, laconic action hero in southwest Texas, where a femme fatale lures him into a family squabble that inevitably turns violent.

In the kind of daylight-noir setting that Jim Thompson loved, ex-military cop Jack Reacher has his thumb out on a lonely west Texas highway when he’s picked up by Carmine Greer, the Mexican-American wife of bad-ol’-boy Sloop Greer. It seems that Sloop, elder son of a white-trash-turned-oil-rich ranching dynasty, is nearing the end of a prison term for tax evasion, and Carmine, whose body Reacher sees is marked with signs of physical abuse, wants Reacher to be her bodyguard—or, failing that, kill the man in such a way that Carmine can still hold on to her terminally cute six-year-old daughter Ellie. Reacher refuses but decides to meet the folks: Rusty, Sloop’s racist, charmless mother, and Bobby, Sloop’s stupid, pugnacious brother. Meanwhile, a trio of paid assassins is littering the Texas roadside with corpses, starting with Sloop’s lawyer, Al Eugene. In a set-piece as good as anything in Elmore Leonard, Bobby sends two ranch-hands to ambush Reacher at an Abilene roadhouse filled with 20 other cowboys spoiling for a fight. Reacher walks away without a scratch, telling Bobby that his hospitalized ranch-hands have “quit.” Child twists his increasingly hokey plot into a pretzel when Sloop is found dead and Carmine confesses to killing him. Reacher just can’t believe that Carmine is guilty and teams up with Alice Aarons, a leggy Jewish lesbian fresh out of law school, who trusts him with her car, her handgun, and her life.

Child builds tension to unbearable extremes, then blows it out in sharply choreographed violence, even if his plot has more holes in it than the shirt Reacher uses for target practice.

Pub Date: July 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-14726-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2001

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