An engaging global tale featuring unexplained deaths, striking locales, and plenty of intrigue.

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FATAL LONGEVITY

In this debut international thriller, an intelligence analyst looks into supposedly natural deaths around the world that have perplexing circumstances.

David works for a covert intelligence organization. His latest assignment focuses on the mysterious death of Günther Fischer in Portofino, Italy. Security footage shows Fischer, who runs a company that trades in rare-earth elements, apparently asleep and then “writhing in agony” before dying. A pathologist determines that he died from jellyfish poisoning. But as there’s no jellyfish in the footage or at the scene, “natural causes” becomes the official reason for his demise. Two equally baffling deaths follow: Belgian fashion designer Marie Thérèse Dupont mysteriously dies during a long-distance flight to Singapore, and Gregory Duncan, founder of the Intellectual Property Law Firm, apparently dies from a lightning bolt on the Greek island of Santorini, despite no recent storm. David and his new romantic interest, Elizabeth Wilson, a British television journalist, spot a link among all three deaths—Fischer and Dupont were both clients of Duncan’s firm. Shockingly, David’s boss doesn’t want him pursuing the investigation any further. “It’s not something that concerns us,” he says, before writing off the peculiar deaths’ connection as a coincidence. Meanwhile, Goran Dragovic is raising funds for his foundation, Chronos, which finances research into prolonging life, ideally to 150 years. He and Chronos may have a tie to the strange events, which soon include additional deaths on the Italian island of Capri and at a holiday resort on Turks and Caicos. Regardless of his boss’s command, David continues to investigate, determined to track down what he calls the “ghost killer.”

Pascal’s novel is brimming with detailed backstories and lavish scenery. With such an abundance of characters, a few of these well-developed individuals, like those related to the victims, play only small roles in the overall tale. But the diverse settings typically enhance the narrative. For example, at the Naples departure point for Capri, there’s “the usual crowd of tourists. Couples and families with heavy suitcases. A mass of humanity waiting anxiously to board. All seemingly escaping the frenetic city life for a holiday in Capri’s enchanting little streets.” Similarly, historical backdrops are rich even when they decelerate the plot. In one instance, a lecture on the history of Pavia, Italy—from a university professor with former romantic ties to Dragovic—dominates the narrative spotlight. The book retains a good deal of mystery throughout, most notably involving Dragovic, whose foundation, notwithstanding its apparent titular connection, is not an integral part of the story. But readers will get some answers by the end, highlighted by specifics on how each victim died—a startling and unsettling reveal. Although David is the novel’s main sleuth, there are lengthy narrative stretches in which he doesn’t appear. And while his dedication to the investigation is palpable, he doesn’t uncover very much in the way of evidence. In fact, he still has work to do by the story’s conclusion, which is an obvious setup for a sequel. The cliffhanger ending will definitely whet readers’ appetites for the next volume.

An engaging global tale featuring unexplained deaths, striking locales, and plenty of intrigue. (acknowledgements, author bio)

Pub Date: March 2, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 277

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2020

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Grisham fans will be pleased, graphic details of evil behavior and all.

A TIME FOR MERCY

A small-town Mississippi courtroom becomes the setting for a trademark Grisham legal tussle.

Stuart Kofer is not a nice guy. He drinks way too much and likes to brawl. One night, coming home in a foul mood with a blood alcohol count more than triple the legal limit, he breaks his live-in girlfriend’s jaw. He’s done terrible things to her children, too—and now her 16-year-old boy, Drew, puts an end to the terror. Unfortunately for the kid in a place where uniforms are worshipped, Stu was a well-liked cop. “Did it really matter if he was sixteen or sixty? It certainly didn’t matter to Stu Kofer, whose stock seemed to rise by the hour,” writes Grisham of local opinion about giving Drew the benefit of the doubt. Jake Brigance, the hero of the tale, is a lawyer who’s down to his last dime until a fat wrongful-death case is settled. It doesn’t help his bank book when the meaningfully named Judge Omar Noose orders him to defend the kid. Backed by a brilliant paralegal whose dream is to be the first Black female lawyer in the county, he prepares for what the local sheriff correctly portends will be “an ugly trial” that may well land Drew on death row. As ever, Grisham capably covers the mores of his native turf, from gun racks to the casual use of the N-word. As well, he examines Bible Belt attitudes toward abortion and capital punishment as well as the inner workings of the courtroom, such as jury selection: “What will your jury look like?” asks a trial consultant, to which Jake replies, “A regular posse. It’s rural north Mississippi, and I’ll try to change venue to another county simply because of the notoriety.” The story runs on a touch long, as Grisham yarns tend to do, and it gets a bit gory at times, but the level of tension is satisfyingly high all the way to the oddly inconclusive end.

Grisham fans will be pleased, graphic details of evil behavior and all.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-385-54596-9

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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Inside this bloated novel is a lean thriller starring a strong and damaged protagonist who's as compelling as Lisbeth...

THE THIRD TO DIE

In Brennan’s (Nothing To Hide, 2019, etc.) new series launch, a hard-edged female LAPD undercover cop and an ambitious FBI special agent race to catch a serial killer before he strikes again.

On paid administrative leave since an incident with a suspect went wrong, a restless Detective Kara Quinn is on an early morning run in her hometown of Liberty Lake, Washington, when she discovers the flayed corpse of a young nurse. In D.C., FBI Special Agent in Charge Mathias Costa is staffing the new Mobile Response Team, designed to cover rural areas underserved by law enforcement, when his boss assigns Matt and analyst Ryder Kim to Liberty Lake. The notorious Triple Killer, who murders three random victims, three days apart, every three years, has returned. With only six days to identify and catch the culprit, and only three days until he kills again, the team is “on a very tight clock.” What should be on-the-edge-of-your-seat suspense turns into a slog marred by pedestrian prose (“she heard nothing except birds chirping…”), a convoluted plot slowed down by a focus on dull bureaucratic infighting, and flat character development. The sole exception is the vividly drawn Kara. Smart, angry, defensive, complicated, she fascinates both the reader and Matt ("Kara Quinn was different—and he couldn’t put his finger on why”).

Inside this bloated novel is a lean thriller starring a strong and damaged protagonist who's as compelling as Lisbeth Salander.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7783-0944-4

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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