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THE ABLE ARCHERS

A revelatory thriller with edge-of-your-seat, end-of-the-world suspense.

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Two intelligence officers—one American, the other Soviet—must work together to stave off a nuclear apocalypse.

Based on the undertold true story of the severest Cold War superpower standoff since the Cuban missile crisis, this thriller builds inexorably to its potentially calamitous conclusion. The year is 1983. The Soviet Union shoots down Korean Air Lines Flight 007, killing 269 civilians. The already strained tensions between America and the Soviet Union (which President Ronald Reagan calls an “evil empire”) escalate against a backdrop of mutual military maneuvers that culminate in a joint American-British nuclear war exercise with the participation of Reagan and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. “To our leaders,” this exercise “will look like the real thing,” Soviet intelligence officer Col. Ivan Levchenko confides to Capt. Kevin Cattani, his young American counterpart. Cattani counters with United States surveillance photographs of unprecedented Soviet “nuclear weapons activity throughout East Germany and Poland.” It all comes to a head on Sept. 26, when the Soviets’ early warning system picks up what appears to be a ballistic missile launch from the U.S. The doomsday clock is ticking as Cattani and Levchenko must work behind the scenes to defuse the situation. Why this tense incident has not been adapted for the screen is a puzzler. It’s a natural: part Fail Safe and part The Hunt for Red October. It’s all too timely as well, recalling a dangerous time when the world’s mightiest powers were not even on speaking terms. Morra, a former U.S. intelligence officer involved in the events on which the gripping book is based, writes with authority. He alternates perspectives between Cattani and Levchenko. Though they are different in age and ethnicity, their voices are perhaps too similar, an element that can be developed in future volumes (“Something tells me that we will meet again, Captain,” Levchenko teases at the story’s end). Early nonevents (a romance that quickly fizzles and hardly seems the bother) stall the narrative, but patient readers will be rewarded.  

A revelatory thriller with edge-of-your-seat, end-of-the-world suspense.

Pub Date: March 22, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-64663-564-1

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Koehler Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 1, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2022

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YOU'D LOOK BETTER AS A GHOST

Squeamish readers will find this isn’t their cup of tea.

Dexter meets Killing Eve in Wallace’s dark comic thriller debut.

While accepting condolences following her father’s funeral, 30-something narrator Claire receives an email saying that one of her paintings is a finalist for a prize. But her joy is short-circuited the next morning when she learns in a second apologetic note that the initial email had been sent to the wrong Claire. The sender, Lucas Kane, is “terribly, terribly sorry” for his mistake. Claire, torn between her anger and suicidal thoughts, has doubts about his sincerity and stalks him to a London pub, where his fate is sealed: “I stare at Lucas Kane in real life, and within moments I know. He doesn’t look sorry.” She dispatches and buries Lucas in her back garden, but this crime does not go unnoticed. Proud of her meticulous standards as a serial killer, Claire wonders if her grief for her father is making her reckless as she seeks to identify the blackmailer among the members of her weekly bereavement support group. The female serial killer as antihero is a growing subgenre (see Oyinkan Braithwaite’s My Sister, the Serial Killer, 2018), and Wallace’s sociopathic protagonist is a mordantly amusing addition; the tool she uses to interact with ordinary people while hiding her homicidal nature is especially sardonic: “Whenever I’m unsure of how I’m expected to respond, I use a cliché. Even if I’m not sure what it means, even if I use it incorrectly, no one ever seems to mind.” The well-written storyline tackles some tough subjects—dementia, elder abuse, and parental cruelty—but the convoluted plot starts to drag at the halfway point. Given the lack of empathy in Claire’s narration, most of the characters come across as not very likable, and the reader tires of her sneering contempt.

Squeamish readers will find this isn’t their cup of tea.

Pub Date: April 16, 2024

ISBN: 9780143136170

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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DAUGHTER OF MINE

Small-town claustrophobia and intimacies alike propel this twist-filled psychological thriller.

The loss of her police officer father and the discovery of an abandoned car in a local lake raise chilling questions regarding a young woman’s family history.

When Hazel Sharp returns to her hometown of Mirror Lake, North Carolina, for her father’s memorial, she and the other townspeople are confronted by a challenging double whammy: As they’re grieving the loss of beloved longtime police officer Detective Perry Holt, a disturbing sight appears in the lake, whose waterline is receding because of an ongoing drought—an old, unidentifiable car, which has likely been lurking there for years. Hazel temporarily leaves her Charlotte-based building-renovation business in the capable hands of her partners and reconnects with her brothers, Caden and Gage; her Uncle Roy; her old fling and neighbor, Nico; and her schoolfriend, Jamie, now a mother and married to Caden. Tiny, relentless suspicions rise to the metaphorical surface along with that waterlogged vehicle: There have been a slew of minor break-ins; two people go missing; and then, a second abandoned car is discovered. The novel digs deeper into Hazel’s family history—her father was a widow when he married Hazel’s mother, who later left the family, absconding with money and jewels—and Miranda, a consummate professional when it comes to exposing the small community tensions that naturally arise when people live in close proximity for generations, exposes revelation after twisty revelation: “Everything mattered disproportionately in a small town. Your success, but also your failure. Everyone knows might as well have been our town motto.”

Small-town claustrophobia and intimacies alike propel this twist-filled psychological thriller.

Pub Date: April 9, 2024

ISBN: 9781668010440

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Marysue Rucci Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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