THE FLORENTINE DECEPTION

In Nachenberg’s thriller debut, a computer-security expert finds evidence that a 137-carat diamond is stashed somewhere, but dangerous people may be looking for the same thing.

Alex Fife is living comfortably after he and his college pals sold their cybersecurity startup company to ViruTrax. Cleaning up a computer from an estate sale, Alex learns that its now-dead owner, Richard Lister, an archaeologist, may have been peddling the Florentine Diamond, stolen nearly a century ago. Alex sees a potential for adventure and checks out Richard’s house, which is on the market, where Alex is convinced Richard has hidden the diamond. But he soon realizes that someone else may want the precious stone (he hears someone creeping around the house late at night). A prospective buyer, unaware that Richard’s dead, sends angry emails to Richard’s account, vaguely threatening the deceased’s brother, Ronald. But what Richard was trying to sell may be about much more than the diamond. The author’s novel boasts equal servings of excitement, suspense and humor. Alex makes an offer on the house just so his engineer friend Steven can pose as an inspector and have good reason to scour the place; Steven hams up his performance for a realtor, superfluously (but hilariously) donning a fake mustache. The latter half of the novel is more exhilarating, as more than one formidable foe is revealed, and Alex, along with a few friends, is indisputably in peril. The protagonist initially is selfish—his apparent interest in finding the diamond is to combat boredom—but his ultimate determination to help Ronald will garner him plenty of sympathy with readers. He’s also a believable hero, not immune to making mistakes or being stumped by seemingly simple tasks. Getting access to Richard’s body at the UCLA Medical School—it may hold the key to getting inside a secured panic room—turns out to be an arduous undertaking; it’s also the book’s highlight, as it features Alex’s grandfather, Papa, who charmingly plays the part of a sickly old man by humming softly to himself. Computer terminology is clear enough without overelaboration, and Alex’s final chance to stop the baddies appropriately returns to where it all started—in front of a computer.


Tackles multiple genres—thriller, action, comedy—and champions each one with panache.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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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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