A poised protagonist leads this serpentine but engaging legal tale.

Almost Mortal

A Virginia public defender aims to protect a priest by stopping a confessed serial killer from committing another murder in this thriller.

Sam Young is a lawyer accustomed to working off the books, especially given the amount of money that people willingly pay him. But helping Father Andrada, who was a friend to his mother, is a little more personal. Church employee Camille Paradisi tells Sam that a confessor has admitted to the priest that he’s the Rosslyn Ripper, responsible for three recent, brutal murders. Camille doesn’t know the killer’s identity but wants to find a way to keep Andrada from landing in legal trouble or breaking his vow. At the same time, someone’s sending pages of a journal to the church, possibly the killer, though there are no specifics on the Ripper murders. The journal’s author claims to have an ability akin to mind reading, much like seeing a person’s inner “framework.” Sam, as it happens, can likewise feel or probe other people’s minds. He tries to connect the manuscript and a chalice at the church—with a bit of covert DNA testing—to the Ripper case but can’t prevent a fourth murder. His apparent psychic abilities, however, may link him to the journal as well as a secret past. Despite the title hinting at something supernatural, the novel becomes more of a legal thriller. There are countless scenes, for example, of Sam with various clients, including physician Fred Torres, who owes money to a loan shark, and Nguyen Jones, who’s exonerated of child-porn charges. Jones aids Sam with his computer skills. The perpetually composed Sam carries the story with chic and humbleness. Leibig (The Black Rabbit, 2014, etc.) treats Sam’s extraordinary talent in the same way, the attorney using it both sparingly and inconspicuously. Sam rightly suspects that Camille’s not telling him everything, leading to a final act that’s virtually overflowing with revelations and twists. The author keeps all of it from spinning out of control, though a few questions go unanswered, like why Camille felt the need to mislead Sam with at least one significant piece of information. Still, the narrative could be a stand-alone or the start of a series, hopefully fronted by Sam.

A poised protagonist leads this serpentine but engaging legal tale.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: -

Publisher: Koehler Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2016

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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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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...


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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