Despite the flaws, well worth reading—Fesperman’s empathy for his protagonists, struggling to do the right thing, is...



Middle East intrigue swirls around an aid worker forced into a clandestine post-retirement mission—more classy suspense from Fesperman (The Prisoner of Guantánamo, 2006, etc.).

Freeman Lockhart and his wife Mila have paid their dues. The two UN aid workers (he’s American, she’s Bosnian Serb) met during the siege of Sarajevo in 1992, then moved on to equally stressful assignments in Rwanda and Tanzania. Now they’re retiring to their new home on a Greek island, but their first night is interrupted by three spooks (Freeman assumes they’re CIA). They take Freeman to a nearby empty villa. They want him to go to Amman, Jordan, to check out a former colleague, Omar al-Baroody, a Palestinian. Omar has his own operation now, raising money for a hospital. But is it a front? Freeman’s role will be to follow the money trail. He agrees in an effort to protect his wife: In Tanzania, Mila inadvertently caused a bloodbath, and Freeman wants desperately to protect her from this knowledge, but unless he plays ball, the spooks will enlighten her. In Amman he finds a welcoming Omar (Freeman will be his director of programs) but bitter rivalries among his cohorts. Fesperman, who has traveled widely, provides details with an insider’s mastery: The gritty Bakaa refugee camp, a run-in with Jordan’s own spy outfit and hairy side trips to Athens and Jerusalem are all nailed to perfection. Unfortunately, there is a parallel, much less convincing, story line involving a Palestinian-American married couple in suburban Washington. Their daughter has died, a victim of post-9/11 Arab profiling, and the father, a top surgeon, is plotting a spectacular revenge. Omar and Freeman’s handlers recede into the background as the surgeon’s wife, Aliyah, arrives in Amman, pursuing her own agenda. To add to the confusion, bombs are detonated by an unidentified group at three Amman hotels, killing scores. The hokey climax has Freeman confronting the surgeon in Washington.

Despite the flaws, well worth reading—Fesperman’s empathy for his protagonists, struggling to do the right thing, is impressive.

Pub Date: March 5, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-4000-4467-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2008

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This is fast-paced, nonstop fun. Cussler fans will gobble it up.


Rumors of lost Egyptian treasure spark high adventure in this 17th in the NUMA series featuring oceanographer Kurt Austin and his crew (Sea of Greed, 2018, etc.).

Over 3,000 years ago, grave robbers sail away with loot from a pharaoh’s tomb. In 1927, Jake Melbourne and his plane disappear in his attempt at a trans-Atlantic flight. In the present day, arms merchants known as the Bloodstone Group have taken to stealing antiquities. They are looking for a “treasure both vast and glorious” that hieroglyphics say was shipped down the Nile and out of Egypt, perhaps even west across the Atlantic. (Holy scurvy! That must’ve been a lot of hard rowing!) The criminals are known to MI5 as “very dangerous people" and "merchants selling death.” Perfectly willing to kill everyone in their way, they are aided by mechanical crows and Fydor and Xandra, nasty sibling assassins jointly called the Toymaker. Such are the foes faced by Austin and his team from the National Underwater and Marine Agency. Of course, Austin has no interest in profit; he will gladly leave the ancient riches wherever they are. Action arrives early and often, and the failed pre-Lindbergh flight fits in neatly. Cussler and Brown concoct a nifty plot with disparate, sometimes over-the-top twists that will make even hardcore adventure fans say “Wow!” Expect claustrophobic gunfights, aerial combat, a life-threatening flood, messages from the dead, coffins of gold—and a vintage classic car, because why not? “We’re going to steal the greatest deposit of Egyptian treasure the world has ever known,” brags the evil mastermind. But he’ll have to climb over the series hero’s dead body first, which—no plot spoiler here—ain’t gonna happen.

This is fast-paced, nonstop fun. Cussler fans will gobble it up.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-08308-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.


A woman accused of shooting her husband six times in the face refuses to speak.

"Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband. They had been married for seven years. They were both artists—Alicia was a painter, and Gabriel was a well-known fashion photographer." Michaelides' debut is narrated in the voice of psychotherapist Theo Faber, who applies for a job at the institution where Alicia is incarcerated because he's fascinated with her case and believes he will be able to get her to talk. The narration of the increasingly unrealistic events that follow is interwoven with excerpts from Alicia's diary. Ah, yes, the old interwoven diary trick. When you read Alicia's diary you'll conclude the woman could well have been a novelist instead of a painter because it contains page after page of detailed dialogue, scenes, and conversations quite unlike those in any journal you've ever seen. " 'What's the matter?' 'I can't talk about it on the phone, I need to see you.' 'It's just—I'm not sure I can make it up to Cambridge at the minute.' 'I'll come to you. This afternoon. Okay?' Something in Paul's voice made me agree without thinking about it. He sounded desperate. 'Okay. Are you sure you can't tell me about it now?' 'I'll see you later.' Paul hung up." Wouldn't all this appear in a diary as "Paul wouldn't tell me what was wrong"? An even more improbable entry is the one that pins the tail on the killer. While much of the book is clumsy, contrived, and silly, it is while reading passages of the diary that one may actually find oneself laughing out loud.

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30169-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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