MASTERING THE ART OF FRENCH MURDER

A subdued period piece that never lives up to its promising title.

Murder complicates the lives of future cookbook writer Julia Child’s friends in 1949 Paris.

Julia has a mayonnaise problem. Although her cuisine runs rings around that of her half-French friend Tabitha Knight, who’s left her work at an American bomber plant to give French lessons to relocated fellow citizens, her mayonnaise remains stubbornly on-again, off-again. She and Tabitha are distracted from this existential dilemma by the discovery of a corpse stabbed to death in their building’s cellar. To her considerable discomfort, Tabitha recognizes the body as that of Thérèse Lognon, an attendee at a party given the night before by Julia’s younger sister, Dorothy, for her colleagues in the American Club Theater, whose current production of And Then There Were None at the Théâtre Monceau featured Thérèse checking garments in the cloakroom. The leading suspects all have more prominent roles in the production: Thad Whiting as sound and lighting designer, Johnny Cantrell as stage manager and set designer, and Neil Kingsley as ill-fated character Philip Lombard. Tabitha’s informal but highly irregular investigations, which motivate a near-fatal collision between her bicycle and a car that speeds away, bring her up so often against Inspecteur Étienne Merveille that it’s a wonder she’s still walking around free when the killer claims a second victim. Though she’s no great shakes as a detective, Tabitha is miles ahead of Merveille in tying the two deaths to a timely but unconvincing Russian spy ring. Throughout it all, Child remains as serenely marginal and undeveloped a character as Agatha Christie was in Cambridge’s A Trace of Poison (2022), though she does eventually solve that mayonnaise problem.

A subdued period piece that never lives up to its promising title.

Pub Date: April 25, 2023

ISBN: 9781496739599

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Kensington

Review Posted Online: Jan. 24, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2023

THE ATLAS MANEUVER

Speculators who haven’t been put off by bitcoin’s recent crash will enjoy this walk—well, run—on the wild side.

Cotton Malone, who just can’t stay retired from international intrigue, joins the mad dance of competitors for a fortune in bitcoin.

So many people have forgotten about the horde of gold the retreating Japanese hid on Luzon Island in the Philippines that it’s not at all clear who has legal title to it. That’s perfect for Robert Citrone, the retired CIA overseer of the Black Eagle Trust, which has used the gold to fund covert operations around the world. Just as Derrick Koger, the European station chief for the CIA, is pulling Malone away from his Copenhagen bookstore to help him investigate possible misdeeds swirling around Luxembourg’s Bank of St. George and its ruthless chief operating officer, Catherine Gledhill, other interested parties turn up in often surprising connections. Freelance assassin Kyra Lhota executes Armenian oligarch Samvel Yerevan and moves on to her next target. Malone’s sometime lover Cassiopeia Vitt is snatched by high-ranking Japanese security chief Aiko Ejima. His former lover Suzy Baldwin resurfaces as Kelly Austin, BSG’s director of special technology, who’s concealing secrets from Malone and the rest of the world. They’re all on the trail of a fabulous cache of bitcoin that in the absence of any legal records of ownership will belong, like the Luzon gold, to anyone who can track it down and grab it. The grandly scaled complications that follow feature countless broken alliances and the deaths of a fearsome number of nonfranchise characters. An extended author’s note explains what’s historically accurate (quite a bit, as it turns out) and what’s fabricated (quite a bit more).

Speculators who haven’t been put off by bitcoin’s recent crash will enjoy this walk—well, run—on the wild side.

Pub Date: Feb. 20, 2024

ISBN: 9781538721032

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2024

THE MATCHMAKER

Intrigue, murder, and vengeance make for a darkly enjoyable read.

A woman’s life takes a stunning turn and a wall comes tumbling down in this tense Cold War spy drama.

In Berlin in 1989, the wall is about to crumble, and Anne Simpson’s husband, Stefan Koehler, goes missing. She is a translator working with refugees from the communist bloc, and he is a piano tuner who travels around Europe with orchestras. Or so he claims. German intelligence service the BND and America’s CIA bring her in for questioning, wrongly thinking she’s protecting him. Soon she begins to learn more about Stefan, whom she had met in the Netherlands a few years ago. She realizes he’s a “gregarious musician with easy charm who collected friends like a beachcomber collects shells, keeping a few, discarding most.” Police find his wallet in a canal and his prized zither in nearby bushes but not his body. Has he been murdered? What’s going on? And why does the BND care? If Stefan is alive, he’s in deep trouble, because he’s believed to be working for the Stasi. She’s told “the dead have a way of showing up. It is only the living who hide.” And she’s quite believable when she wonders, “Can you grieve for someone who betrayed you?” Smart and observant, she notes that the reaction by one of her interrogators is “as false as his toupee. Obvious, uncalled for, and easily put on.” Lurking behind the scenes is the Matchmaker, who specializes in finding women—“American. Divorced. Unhappy,” and possibly having access to Western secrets—who will fall for one of his Romeos. Anne is the perfect fit. “The matchmaker turned love into tradecraft,” a CIA agent tells her. But espionage is an amoral business where duty trumps decency, and “deploring the morality of spies is like deploring violence in boxers.” It’s a sentiment John le Carré would have endorsed, but Anne may have the final word.

Intrigue, murder, and vengeance make for a darkly enjoyable read.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-64313-865-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pegasus Crime

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022

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