A guy with “the soul of a bohemian caged by the mind of an auditor” finds more excitement on the job than he’d ever...



The cultural dynamic of Dubai provides the most compelling element in this international thriller.

A former foreign correspondent for the Baltimore Sun, award-winning crime novelist Fesperman (The Arms Maker of Berlin, 2009, etc.) finds intrigue in yet another exotic locale, though the one-dimensional characters offer no match for the ambiguities of the setting, a city steeped in tradition yet growing at an astounding pace that results in cultural whiplash. It is an “eerie insta-city…(where) everything between the desert and the deep blue sea was for sale, and all of it was either going fast or being paved over to make way for more.” Observes protagonist Sam Keller, a young auditor for a huge pharmaceutical company, “This was how the Emerald City must have looked after the Wizard flew off in his balloon, taking all the rules with him.” Sam’s work includes a lot of travel, though he is surprised when his superiors ask him to meet with an older, more reckless colleague in Dubai for what appears to be babysitting detail. Sam accompanies the colleague to a brothel, where a murder generates suspicion that Sam might be implicated. But the reader recognizes early on that characters in this novel are either good or bad and that Sam is one of the good guys, though it can be a challenge for him to distinguish the other good guys from the bad guys. He finds himself caught between two rival police officers and has to decide which one is more likely to help him and which is more interested in framing him. His home corporation that initially promised to help protect him inexplicably appears to be turning on him. He receives support from an obligatory love interest, who is plainly good, though her father fears that her increasingly Westernized values are bad. As the plot thickens, Sam finds himself “sought by the police, your employers, your embassy, and the criminal elite of two nations.”

A guy with “the soul of a bohemian caged by the mind of an auditor” finds more excitement on the job than he’d ever anticipated.

Pub Date: July 16, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-307-26838-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2010

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Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.


Thriller writer Baldacci (A Minute to Midnight, 2019, etc.) launches a new detective series starring World War II combat vet Aloysius Archer.

In 1949, Archer is paroled from Carderock Prison (he was innocent) and must report regularly to his parole officer, Ernestine Crabtree (she’s “damn fine-looking”). Parole terms forbid his visiting bars or loose women, which could become a problem. Trouble starts when businessman Hank Pittleman offers Archer $100 to recover a ’47 Cadillac that’s collateral for a debt owed by Lucas Tuttle, who readily agrees he owes the money. But Tuttle wants his daughter Jackie back—she’s Pittleman’s girlfriend, and she won’t return to Daddy. Archer finds the car, but it’s been torched. With no collateral to collect, he may have to return his hundred bucks. Meanwhile, Crabtree gets Archer the only job available, butchering hogs at the slaughterhouse. He’d killed plenty of men in combat, and now he needs peace. The Pittleman job doesn’t provide that peace, but at least it doesn’t involve bashing hogs’ brains in. People wind up dead and Archer becomes a suspect. So he noses around and shows that he might have the chops to be a good private investigator, a shamus. This is an era when gals have gams, guys say dang and keep extra Lucky Strikes in their hatbands, and a Lady Liberty half-dollar buys a good meal. The dialogue has a '40s noir feel: “And don’t trust nobody.…I don’t care how damn pretty they are.” There’s adult entertainment at the Cat’s Meow, cheap grub at the Checkered Past, and just enough clichés to prove that no one’s highfalutin. Readers will like Archer. He’s a talented man who enjoys detective stories, won’t keep ill-gotten gains, and respects women. All signs suggest a sequel where he hangs out a shamus shingle.

Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5387-5056-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2019

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Great storytelling about the pursuit of extrajudicial justice.


Ninth in the author’s Gray Man series (Mission Critical, 2019, etc.) in which “the most elite assassin in the world” has his hands full.

Ex–CIA Agent Courtland Gentry (the Gray Man) has Serbian war criminal Ratko Babic in his gun sight, but when he decides instead to kill the old beast face to face, he uncovers a massive sex-slavery ring. “I don’t get off on this,” the Gray Man lies to the reader as he stabs a sentry. “I only kill bad people.” Of course he does. If there weren’t an endless supply of them to slay, he’d have little reason to live. Now, countless young Eastern European women are being lured into sexual slavery and fed into an international pipeline, sold worldwide through “the Consortium.” Bad guys refer to their captives as products, not people. They are “merchandise,” but their plight haunts the Gray Man, so of course he is going to rescue as many women as he can. The road to their salvation will be paved with the dead as he enlists a team of fighters to strike the enemy, which includes a South African dude who is giddy for the chance to meet and kill the Gray Man. Meanwhile, Europol analyst Talyssa Corbu meets the hero while on a personal mission to rescue her sister. “You don’t seem like a psychopath,” she tells him. Indeed, though he could play one on TV. Corbu and her sister are tough and likable characters while the director of the Consortium leads a double life as family man and flesh merchant. Human trafficking is an enormous real-life problem, so it’s satisfying to witness our larger-than-life protagonist put his combat skills to good use. There will be a sequel, of course. As a friend tells the wounded Gentry at the end, he’ll be off killing bozos again before he knows it.

Great storytelling about the pursuit of extrajudicial justice.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09891-2

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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