The solid plot is nearly outshone by its sterling leads, the father–daughter duo that refuses to compromise.


In Sailor’s thriller, a father seeks to liberate his daughter after she’s accused and tried for capital crimes in China.

Retired police captain David Kettering learns that his daughter, Sarah, a correspondent for Global News Network, has been charged with espionage in the assassination attempt on the general secretary in Beijing. That information is a mere courtesy: The United States is denying any association with Sarah, whom China believes to be an American agent. Members of a “democracy club” are also arrested, but the conspiracy runs even deeper—China’s president is poisoned, an attempt on his life that he believes was instigated by the general secretary. David, Sarah and others, including GNN comrades, are bugged and shadowed by agents of the Ministry of State Security, while David learns just how far he’ll go to save his daughter. Sailor (The Second Son, 1979) dives right into the story, as David travels from the States to Beijing in little narrative time. There’s little attempt to establish the relationship between father and daughter before the plot begins; the imprisoned Sarah is introduced in shackles. But their solid connection is well developed through their brief encounters and David’s unfaltering belief in her innocence—“My daughter is not now, nor has she ever been, a spy,” he boldly proclaims in court. Sailor’s writing style is unassuming, as he spends less time painting the scenery than relaying information, which comes in streams but suppresses enough details to maintain a flow of curiosity. Hoping for help in getting his daughter back to America, David spends a large portion of the novel tracking down the ambassador in the U.S., although he typically finds himself immersed in kinetic gunfights. Sarah, despite her mistreatment in prison, proves just as resolute and sturdy a character as her father. The story is further enriched by a clear struggle between communism and democracy (a political demonstration has a bloody conclusion), but Sarah’s trial is the most rousing part, particularly when watching her lawyer jump hurdles in the courtroom.

The solid plot is nearly outshone by its sterling leads, the father–daughter duo that refuses to compromise.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2011


Page Count: -

Publisher: Charles Sailor

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2012

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.


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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Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless...


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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