Clunky closure for a series that’s taken on too much ballast.

THE RECKONING

Stroud wraps up his peculiar Deep South crime trilogy with a host of made men, undead men, evil spirits, and cops trying as hard as the author to hold everything together.

The third book set in the ironically named town of Niceville (Niceville, 2012; The Homecoming, 2013) opens with the police redoubling their efforts to purge the ghosts of the plantation-owning Teague family, which have sown demonic chaos locally. Rainey Teague, a 14-year-old boy seemingly recovered from possession at the end of the previous novel, has taken refuge with the family of Detective Nick Kavanaugh, but Rainey’s tossing a young boy in a river suggests all’s not well. Nick, meanwhile, has his hands full with a gruesome and inexplicable mass murder of a family, and ex-officer Charles Danziger has re-emerged from his apparent death to journey to the plantation where all this supernatural horror started. To that Stroud adds a subplot involving another cop dealing with mobsters in Florida and one mobster’s widow, Delores, using every clichéd feminine wile available to manipulate an FBI agent. Stroud’s kitchen-sink approach to plotting is almost admirably audacious, weaving in Mario Puzo, Anne Rice, and Stephen King. But the novel has the effect of random pages from each of those authors shuffled together. There are intermittent well-turned smaller scenes—Nick’s wife, Kate, confiding in their housekeeper, or Delores doting over her irksome, flatulent Chihuahua. But the overarching plot is busy and convoluted, never successfully meshing real-world bloodshed with Southern Gothic mysticism. “Maybe some kind of horrible bad evil but totally invisible demonic wasp cloud of mind-warping free-floating crazy is flying around Niceville and it drills into people’s skulls and turns them into sadistic psychokiller zombies?” a character jokingly asks. Stroud’s not joking, alas, but the story lacks the B-movie campiness such a setup deserves.

Clunky closure for a series that’s taken on too much ballast.

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-101-87302-1

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once...

DELIVER US FROM EVIL

In Baldacci’s 19th (True Blue, 2009, etc.), boy and girl monster-hunters meet cute.

Evan Waller, aka Fadir Kuchin, aka “the Butcher of Kiev,” aka “the Ukrainian psychopath,” is one of those deep-dyed villains a certain kind of fiction can’t do without. Serving with distinction as part of the Soviet Union’s KGB, he joyfully and indiscriminately killed thousands. Now, many years later, posing as a successful businessman, he’s vacationing in Provence where, unbeknownst to him, two separate clandestine operations are being mounted by people who do not regard him with favor. Reggie Campion—28 and gorgeous—spearheads the first, an ad hoc group of monster-hunting vigilantes. Studly, tall Shaw (no first name supplied) is point guard for a rival team, shadowy enough to leave the matter of its origin ambiguous. While their respective teams reconnoiter and jockey for position, studly boy meets gorgeous girl. Monster-hunters are famous for having trust issues, but clearly these are drawn to each other in the time-honored Hollywood fashion. Shaw saves Reggie’s life. She returns the favor. The attraction deepens and heats up to the point where team-members on both sides grow unsettled by the loss of focus, singularly inopportune since, as monsters go, Waller rises to the second coming of Caligula—ample testimony furnished by a six-page, unsparingly detailed torture scene. In the end, the stalkers strike, bullets fly, screams curdle the blood, love has its innings and a monster does what a monster’s got to do.

The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once again show the stuff it’s made of.

Pub Date: April 20, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-446-56408-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Avon A/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2010

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POP GOES THE WEASEL

After a flight in fantasy with When the Wind Blows (1998), Patterson goes to ground with another slash-and-squirm psychokiller page-turner, this one dedicated to “the millions of Alex Cross readers, who so frequently ask, can’t you write faster?” By day, Geoffrey Shafer is a charming, 42-year-old British Embassy paper-pusher with a picture-perfect family and a shady past as an MI-6 secret agent. Come sundown, he swallows a pharmacy of psychoactive pills, gulps three black coffees loaded with sugar, and roams the streets of Washington, D.C., in a battered cab, where, disguised as a black man, he rolls dice to determine which among his black female fares he—ll murder. Afterwards he dumps his naked victims in crime-infested back alleys of black- slum neighborhoods, then sends e-mails boasting of his accomplishments to three other former MI-6 agents involved in a hellish Internet role-playing game. “I sensed I was at the start of another homicide mess,” sighs forensic-psychologist turned homicide-detective Alex Cross. Cross yearns to catch the “Jane Doe murderer” but is thwarted by Det. Chief George Pittman, who assigns sexy Det. Patsy Hampton to investigate Cross and come up with a reason for dismissing him. Meanwhile, Cross’s fiancÇe is kidnaped during a Bermuda vacation, and an anonymous e-mail warns him to back off. He doesn’t, of course, and just when it appears that Patterson is sleep-walking through his story, Cross nabs Shafer minutes after Shafer kills Det. Hampton. During the subsequent high-visibility trail, Shafer manages to make the jury believe that he’s innocent and that Cross was trying to frame him. When all seems lost, a sympathetic British intelligence chief offers to help Cross bring down Shafer, and the other homicidal game-players, during a showdown on the breezy beaches of Jamaica. Kinky mayhem, a cartoonish villain, regular glimpses of the kindly Cross caring for his loved ones, and an ending that spells a sequel: Patterson’s fans couldn’t ask for more.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 1999

ISBN: 0-316-69328-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1999

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