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MURDER LLC

A bracing page-turner with an unconventional hero.

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A woman hires a private eye to find her missing brother—who is in trouble with a ruthless Mexican drug cartel leader—in this novel.

Damian Playa, a disillusioned cartel hit man looking to leave the life, has a simple job: Go to a Las Vegas casino, buy $400,000 worth of chips, place a few skimpy bets at a poker table, and cash out. Failure to do so will mean the gang rape and violent deaths of his mother and girlfriend. But after he wins a couple of bets at the roulette table, even that threat isn’t enough to stop Damian from going all in. Inevitably, he loses it all and disappears. His sister, Araceli, hires private investigator Scott Brody to find him. She describes Damian as “a three-time no-talent loser” and tells Brody she does not want the police informed about the situation. “If Damian’s involved in something dirty, like I suspect, I don’t want the cops finding out about it,” she explains. The investigation, inevitably, is not as cut-and-dried as a mere missing person case. It turns out that Don Gaetano’s Cobalt Green Tide cartel is into some deep state doings, and Brody must grapple with an insidious governmental conspiracy and players with hidden agendas. Brody is an epileptic, which is a unique vulnerability that deftly establishes him as a fighter who refuses to quit while allowing Cassiday to indulge in some tony literary allusions. (Brody frequents a website for those who share his disability and uses the name Myshkin from Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot.) As a scene-setter, Cassiday effectively grabs readers (“Three nuns packing guns under their black habits riding in a silver Range Rover SUV drove up to a small Catholic church” is the gripping book’s opener). The dialogue, though, is a bit hit and miss in this fast-paced tale.

A bracing page-turner with an unconventional hero.

Pub Date: June 9, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 364

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: April 23, 2020

THE ATLAS MANEUVER

Speculators who haven’t been put off by bitcoin’s recent crash will enjoy this walk—well, run—on the wild side.

Cotton Malone, who just can’t stay retired from international intrigue, joins the mad dance of competitors for a fortune in bitcoin.

So many people have forgotten about the horde of gold the retreating Japanese hid on Luzon Island in the Philippines that it’s not at all clear who has legal title to it. That’s perfect for Robert Citrone, the retired CIA overseer of the Black Eagle Trust, which has used the gold to fund covert operations around the world. Just as Derrick Koger, the European station chief for the CIA, is pulling Malone away from his Copenhagen bookstore to help him investigate possible misdeeds swirling around Luxembourg’s Bank of St. George and its ruthless chief operating officer, Catherine Gledhill, other interested parties turn up in often surprising connections. Freelance assassin Kyra Lhota executes Armenian oligarch Samvel Yerevan and moves on to her next target. Malone’s sometime lover Cassiopeia Vitt is snatched by high-ranking Japanese security chief Aiko Ejima. His former lover Suzy Baldwin resurfaces as Kelly Austin, BSG’s director of special technology, who’s concealing secrets from Malone and the rest of the world. They’re all on the trail of a fabulous cache of bitcoin that in the absence of any legal records of ownership will belong, like the Luzon gold, to anyone who can track it down and grab it. The grandly scaled complications that follow feature countless broken alliances and the deaths of a fearsome number of nonfranchise characters. An extended author’s note explains what’s historically accurate (quite a bit, as it turns out) and what’s fabricated (quite a bit more).

Speculators who haven’t been put off by bitcoin’s recent crash will enjoy this walk—well, run—on the wild side.

Pub Date: Feb. 20, 2024

ISBN: 9781538721032

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2024

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THE FURY

More style than substance.

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Michaelides takes a literary turn in his latest novel, employing an unreliable narrator, the structure of classical drama, and a self-conscious eye to dismantling the locked-room mystery.

The novel starts off with a murder, and with seven people trapped on an isolated Greek island lashed by a "wild, unpredictable Greek wind." The narrator, soon established as Elliot Chase, then zooms out to address the reader directly, introducing the players—most importantly movie star Lana Farrar. We meet her husband, Jason Miller, her son, Leo, and her friend Kate Crosby, a theater actress. We learn about her rise to fame and her older first husband, Otto Krantz, a Hollywood producer. We learn about Kate’s possibly stalling career and Leo’s plan to apply to acting schools against his mother’s wishes. We learn about Jason’s obsession with guns. And in fragments and shards, we learn about Elliot: his painful childhood; his May–September relationship with an older female writer, now dead; his passion for the theater, where he learned “to change everything about [himself]” to fit in. Though he isn't present in every scene, he conveys each piece of the story leading up to the murder as if he were an omniscient narrator, capable of accessing every character's interior perspective. When he gets to the climax, there is, indeed, a shooting. There is, indeed, a motive. And there is, of course, a twist. The atmosphere of the novel, set mostly on this wild Greek island, echoes strongly the classical tragedies of Greece. The characters are types. The emotions are operatic. And the tragedy, of course, leads us to question the idea of fate. Michaelides seems also to be dipping into the world of Edgar Allan Poe, offering an unreliable narrator who feels more like a literary exercise. As an exploration of genre, it’s really quite fascinating. As a thriller, it’s not particularly surprising.

More style than substance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2024

ISBN: 9781250758989

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2023

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