Swift, sharp character descriptions and atmospheric evocations of gray, melancholy Moscow and the seedier streets of Los...

THE VENONA CABLE

Ghelfi (Volk’s Shadow, 2008, etc.) keeps the Cold War hot with the intrigues of various Russian and U.S. agents, double agents and a slate of characters who are seldom what they seem.

Many questions dog Russian Special Forces agent Alexei Volkovoy, or “Volk,” in his third adventure. What is the meaning of the Venona Cable, a decrypted World War II missive he’s acquired that details Churchill and Roosevelt’s discussion about a second front against Germany? Why has Everett Walker, a filmmaker from Hollywood’s golden age, turned up murdered in the Moscow warehouse where Volk produces porn films, steals identities and works for the “General,” an underworld boss? And did Volk’s father Stepan betray Russia by defecting in a plane passing over the Arctic in 1974? Volk gets a chance to ponder the answers when he’s slammed into a Moscow prison, beaten and interrogated on charges of murdering Walker. Volk’s bargaining chip is his obsession with his father’s loyalties. Moscow police and the General also want to know what Stepan was up to in the United States, so they send Volk sprinting after the answer. In a high-octane junket from Albuquerque to Los Angeles, the indefatigable Volk learns that his father was involved in developing an aerial surveillance camera that could see through cloud cover. The special camera may link Stepan to Walker, a cinematographer who produced pro-Soviet documentaries. Walker’s film company was a subsidiary of Lorelei Industries, an aerospace company headed by Gordon Reese, who, like many of those Volk encounters in the States, is as violent and treacherous as anyone working Russia’s underground. Hacking through a thicket of reversals and betrayals, Volk fixes on the overriding question of his father’s nature.

Swift, sharp character descriptions and atmospheric evocations of gray, melancholy Moscow and the seedier streets of Los Angeles add style and color to a delectably complicated plot.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-8050-8894-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2009

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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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Joe, who insists that “I’m not on a side,” spends more time than he’d like in rooms with ceilings, but the mystery is strong...

COLD WIND

Wyoming Fish and Game Warden Joe Pickett’s fondest dream becomes his worst nightmare when his loathsome mother-in-law is arrested for murder.

Earl Alden, the sixth suitor to take Missy Vankueren Longbrake Alden to the nuptial bed, was proud of the 100 new wind turbines sprouting on his spread, the Thunderbird Ranch. But someone must have disliked both them and him, because Joe finds his corpse chained to the vane of one of them, rotating briskly. Joe’s current nemesis, county sheriff Kyle McLanahan, and rookie county attorney Lisa Rich, announce that they’ve got an airtight case against Missy based on the testimony of an unnamed informant who maintains that she engaged him to kill the Earl of Lexington, who in a reversal of the customary order of things had been preparing to divorce her before she could tire of him. Joe, whose dislike of his overbearing, manipulative mother-in-law crystallized into something harder when she divorced rancher Bud Longbrake, confiscated his family’s property and left him empty-handed, finds himself in the unwelcome position of hunting for exculpatory evidence. He’d love to have the help of outlaw falconer Nate Romanowski once more. But Nate, following a serious quarrel with Joe (Nowhere to Run, 2010), has gone to ground somewhere he hopes will be safe from the old Special Forces colleagues he suspects have been sent to find and kill him. It looks like both men will be on their own until they collide just in time for a stunning courtroom finale.

Joe, who insists that “I’m not on a side,” spends more time than he’d like in rooms with ceilings, but the mystery is strong enough to compensate, and the revelations about wind farms will curl your hair no matter which side you’re on.

Pub Date: March 22, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-15735-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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