An intriguing, if occasionally awkward, cyberespionage thriller.

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The eBay Plot

THE EBAY DETECTIVE BOOK ONE

U.S. Army major Brad Stout must go undercover into the cyberdepths of eBay to foil a deadly radioactive threat in the first book of Salter’s eBay Detective series.

The Army’s leading experts in weapons of mass destruction are being taken out one by one in suburban Maryland, just miles from where they serve their country as critical researchers. Brad, a decorated veteran of the Bethesda-based Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute, is hard at work piecing together a series of questionable purchases by anonymous eBay buyers. He devises a cunning online strategy, offering to sell radiobiological items on eBay, and soon, the prime suspect in the murders is in FBI custody. At home, he has a spinster sister, with whom he shares troubling memories of their abusive father, and a new fiancee, Mary Lou, who’s pregnant with twins. Brad’s ready to return to his normal life—until he receives an email from another anonymous buyer. Convinced that this new buyer is working with the first, Brad panics, believing that he, his fiancee and his sister could be the next casualties. He races to protect those he loves, while keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of a psychopath. Based on a true story, the engaging plot reaches back into World War II history and secret Nazi laboratories. Its prose and hackneyed dialogue don’t offer the same sense of excitement, however. For example, in the opening chapter, a villain fakes an injury, and when an innocent woman asks what she can do to help him, he replies, “You can die!”; in a later scene, when a character asks the same villain what he should do with some sensitive materials, he replies, “You can take them to your grave!” The novel’s structure is repetitive, as well, with Brad alternating between the government facility, his eBay basement and his girlfriend’s home. The bond shared between Brad and his sister feels genuine and lends them some depth, but Mary Lou is depicted as an overseasoned Cajun stereotype.

An intriguing, if occasionally awkward, cyberespionage thriller.

Pub Date: Dec. 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-1621474920

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Tate Publishing

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2013

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Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

CROOKED RIVER

FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast finds evil afoot in his latest action-filled adventure (Verses for the Dead, 2018, etc.).

Imagine Florida beachcombers’ shock when they discover a shoe with a severed foot inside. Soon they see dozens more feet, all in identical shoes, bobbing toward the beach. Police and FBI ultimately count more than a hundred of them washing up on Sanibel and Captiva Islands' tranquil shores. Pendergast teams up with the junior Special Agent Armstrong Coldmoon to investigate this strange phenomenon. Oceanographers use a supercomputer to analyze Gulf currents and attempt to determine where the feet entered the ocean. Were they dumped off a ship or an island? Does each one represent a homicide? Analysts examine chemical residues and pollen, even the angle of each foot’s amputation, but the puzzle defies all explanation. Attention focuses on Cuba, where “something terrible was happening” in front of a coastal prison, and on China, the apparent source of the shoes. The clever plot is “a most baffling case indeed” for the brilliant Pendergast, but it’s the type of problem he thrives on. He’s hardly a stereotypical FBI agent, given for example his lemon-colored silk suit, his Panama hat, and his legendary insistence on working alone—until now. Pendergast rarely blinks—perhaps, someone surmises, he’s part reptile. But equally odd is Constance Greene, his “extraordinarily beautiful,” smart, and sarcastic young “ward” who has “eyes that had seen everything and, as a result, were surprised by nothing.” Coldmoon is more down to earth: part Lakota, part Italian, and “every inch a Fed.” Add in murderous drug dealers, an intrepid newspaper reporter, coyotes crossing the U.S.–Mexico border, and a pissed-off wannabe graphic novelist, and you have a thoroughly entertaining cast of characters. There is plenty of suspense, and the action gets bloody.

Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4725-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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Professionally entertaining, with lots of realistically frustrating false hopes—though it’s hard to worry very much about...

NEON PREY

Lucas Davenport goes west.

But first he goes south, called from his home in Minnesota to the Louisiana swamp where hired killer Clayton Deese buried at least five people (the total is actually higher) before coming a cropper seven months ago with his latest target, Howell Paine. Things went sideways, sending Paine to the hospital and sentencing Deese to an ankle monitor he sliced through three days ago. Local FBI agent Sandro Tremanty, discovering Deese’s absence, wants help from the U.S. marshals in rounding up his quarry so that he can implicate loan shark Roger Smith, who’d hired him to hurt Paine and send a warning to his other debtors. And there’s another reason the feds would like to get Deese off the streets: His experiments in homicide have given him a taste for human flesh. Soon enough, Lucas, together with marshals Rae Givens and Bob Matees, has picked up Deese’s trail, which leads first to Marina Del Rey, where he’s joined his half brother, Marion Beauchamps, and Jayden Nast, “a guy with guns, who hates cops,” in a brutal home-invasion crew. Conscientious detective work brings Lucas and the LAPD within a whisker of catching Deese, but he slips away from them and heads to Las Vegas with Genesis Cox, the blonde he’s picked up, and John Rogers Cole, another accomplice. Deese and his cohort must constantly pull new jobs to support their gambling and drug habits, and it’s hard to imagine their eluding the law for very long. But there are deeper threats to their racket. Roger Smith, who knows plenty about Deese, realizes he has every reason to get rid of him, and there turns out to be no honor among the thieves closer to home either.

Professionally entertaining, with lots of realistically frustrating false hopes—though it’s hard to worry very much about the leading question here: Will the franchise hero (Twisted Prey, 2018, etc.) succeed in bringing the crooks to justice before they wipe each other off the face of the Earth?

Pub Date: April 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-53658-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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