An absorbing tale of terrorism with a tantalizing what if at its core.

THE COVER WIFE

In late 1999, Paris-based CIA agent Claire Saylor goes to Hamburg to help penetrate an Al-Qaida group whose members include future 9/11 conspirators.

Claire, whose defiance of her superiors has made her something of a black sheep at the agency, is handled by Paul Bridger, with whom she had a brief affair during a botched mission in Berlin a decade ago. Her unpromising assignment is to pose as the wife of an American language scholar whose inflammatory new book asserts a key section of the Quran has been misinterpreted—that 72 white raisins, not 72 virgins, await jihadi martyrs. The dumpy professor believes his European book tour is being sponsored by a prestigious think tank and that Claire is there for his security, but the trip has been arranged by the CIA in hopes that his physical presence will draw radicals into the open. At the same time, young Moroccan émigré Mahmoud Yassin is busy ingratiating himself with radicals from a local mosque. Their leader, known as Amir, is Mohamed Atta. He says he has big plans for Mahmoud. But first the new recruit must prove his mettle by getting rid of Esma, the alluring, Westernized woman who threatens to interfere with plans to send her husband on a suicide mission. Instantly smitten with her, the skittish Mahmoud is caught between a rock and a tantalizing soft place. In withholding key details from the reader early on, Fesperman is cheating a bit. But his follow-up to the exceptional Safe Houses (2018) is a breezy, thoughtful thriller that avoids high drama in favor of quick and ultimately unsettling shots to the system.

An absorbing tale of terrorism with a tantalizing what if at its core.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-525-65783-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

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THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE

In December 1926, mystery writer Agatha Christie really did disappear for 11 days. Was it a hoax? Or did her husband resort to foul play?

When Agatha meets Archie on a dance floor in 1912, the obscure yet handsome pilot quickly sweeps her off her feet with his daring. Archie seems smitten with her. Defying her family’s expectations, Agatha consents to marry Archie rather than her intended, the reliable yet boring Reggie Lucy. Although the war keeps them apart, straining their early marriage, Agatha finds meaningful work as a nurse and dispensary assistant, jobs that teach her a lot about poisons, knowledge that helps shape her early short stories and novels. While Agatha’s career flourishes after the war, Archie suffers setback after setback. Determined to keep her man happy, Agatha finds herself cooking elaborate meals, squelching her natural affections for their daughter (after all, Archie must always feel like the most important person in her life), and downplaying her own troubles, including her grief over her mother's death. Nonetheless, Archie grows increasingly morose. In fact, he is away from home the day Agatha disappears. By the time Detective Chief Constable Kenward arrives, Agatha has already been missing for a day. After discovering—and burning—a mysterious letter from Agatha, Archie is less than eager to help the police. His reluctance and arrogance work against him, and soon the police, the newspapers, the Christies’ staff, and even his daughter’s classmates suspect him of harming his wife. Benedict concocts a worthy mystery of her own, as chapters alternate between Archie’s negotiation of the investigation and Agatha’s recounting of their relationship. She keeps the reader guessing: Which narrator is reliable? Who is the real villain?

A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4926-8272-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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