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


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


Page Count: 277

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2020

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Enjoyable storytelling by two masters of the craft.


Lindsay Boxer faces a ton of trouble in the latest entry in Patterson and Paetro’s Women’s Murder Club series.

Senior crime reporter Cindy Thomas is writing a biography of Evan Burke, a notorious serial killer who sits in solitary confinement in San Quentin. She’s kidnapped by thugs wanting her to talk about her best friend, Lindsay Boxer, who’s an SFPD homicide detective and the story’s main character. San Francisco has a restrictive new gun law, and gun-totin’ folks everywhere have their boxer shorts in a twist. A national resistance movement has formed—Defenders of the Second—whose motto is “We will not comply.” They find it outrageous that the new law makes it illegal to own a gun that can kill 50 people with a single clip. Meanwhile, lots of bodies show up: A young girl disappears and is later found dead in a ditch, and ex-cops are found dead with their lips stapled shut and “You talk, you die” written on their foreheads. An inmate is found hanged in prison. And “a massive but unspecified load of military-style weaponry was en route from Mexico to the City by the Bay.” In a “frustrating, multipronged case,” there’s a harrowing shootout memorialized in a video showing “twenty-two of the scariest seconds” of Boxer’s life. She’s an appealing series hero with loving family and friends, but she may arrive at a crossroads where she has “to choose between my work and [my] baby girl.” The formulaic story has unmemorable writing, but it’s entertaining and well told. You probably won’t have to worry about the main characters, who have thus far survived 21 adventures. Except for the little girl, you can expect people to get what they deserve. It's relatively mild as crime novels go, but the women characters are serious, strong, and admirable.

Enjoyable storytelling by two masters of the craft.

Pub Date: May 2, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-49937-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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Top-drawer crime fiction. The authors are tough on the hero, but the hero is tough.


Patterson and Ellis put their characters through hell in this hard-edged second installment of their Black Book series after The Black Book (2017).

A young girl is one of four people gunned down in a “very, very bad” K-Town drive-by shooting in Chicago. Police are under intense political pressure to solve it, so Detective Billy Harney is assigned to the Special Operations Section to put the brakes on the gang violence on the West Side. His new partner is Detective Carla Griffin, whom colleagues describe as “sober as an undertaker” and “as fun as a case of hemorrhoids.” And she looks like the last thing he needs, a pill popper. (But is she?) Department muckety-mucks want Harney to fail, and Griffin is supposed to spy on him. The poor guy already has a hell of a backstory: His daughter died and his wife committed suicide (or did she?) four years earlier, he’s been shot in the head, charged with murder (and exonerated), and helped put his own father in prison. (Nothing like a tormented hero!) Now the deaths still haunt him while he and Griffin begin to suspect they’re not looking at a simple turf war starring the Imperial Gangster Nation. Meanwhile, the captain in Internal Affairs is deep in the pocket of some bad guys who run an international human trafficking ring, and he loathes Harney. The protagonist is lucky to have Patti, his sister and fellow detective, as his one reliable friend who lets him know he’s being set up. The authors do masterful work creating flawed characters to root for or against, and they certainly pile up the troubles for Billy Harney. Abundant nasty twists will hold readers’ rapt attention in this dark, violent, and fast-moving thriller.

Top-drawer crime fiction. The authors are tough on the hero, but the hero is tough.

Pub Date: March 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-49940-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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