by Dan Fesperman ‧ RELEASE DATE: July 6, 2021
An absorbing tale of terrorism with a tantalizing what if at its core.
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
Page Count: 336
Review Posted Online: April 13, 2021
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021
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by David Baldacci ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 11, 2022
Fascinating main characters and a clever plot add up to an exciting read.
A thriller with bloody murders and plenty of suspects and featuring an unlikely partnership between two FBI investigators.
FBI consultant Amos Decker has a lot on his mind. The huge fellow once played for the Cleveland Browns in the NFL until he received a catastrophic brain injury, leaving him with synesthesia; he sees death as electric blue. More pertinent to the plot, he also has hyperthymesia, or spontaneous and highly accurate recall. On the one hand, his memories can be horrible. He’d once come home to find his wife and daughter murdered, dead in pools of blood. Later, he listens helplessly on the telephone while his ex-partner shoots herself in the mouth. On the other hand, his memory helps him solve every case he's given. Now he's sent to Florida with a brand-new partner, Special Agent Frederica White, to investigate the murder of a federal judge. Both partners are pissed at their last-minute pairing, and they immediately see themselves as a bad fit. White is a diminutive Black single mother of two who has a double black belt in karate “because I hate getting my ass kicked.” (The author doesn't mention Decker's race, but since he's being contrasted with his new partner in every way, perhaps readers are expected to see him as White. Clarity would be nice.) Their case is strange: Judge Julia Cummins was stabbed 10 times and her face covered with a mask, while her bodyguard was shot to death. Decker and White puzzle over the “very contrarian crime scene” where two murders seem to have been committed by two different people in the same place. The plot gets complex, with suspects galore. But the interpersonal dynamic between Decker and White is just as interesting as the solution to the murders, which doesn't come easily. At first, they’d like to be done with each other and go their separate ways. But as they work together, their mutual respect rises and—alas—the tension between them fades almost completely. The pair will make a great series duo, especially if a bit of that initial tension between them returns. And Baldacci shouldn’t give Decker a pass on his tortured memories, because readers enjoy suffering heroes. It's not enough that his near-perfect recall helps him in his job.Fascinating main characters and a clever plot add up to an exciting read.
Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2022
Page Count: 448
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2022
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2022
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by Lisa Jewell ‧ RELEASE DATE: Aug. 8, 2023
It's hard to read but hard to look away from.
When two women who share a birthday meet, a journalist becomes the subject of her own true-crime mystery.
On their 45th birthdays, Josie Fair and Alix Summer meet at a pub and discover they were born not only on the same day, but in the same hospital. Alix is a successful journalist, and Josie convinces Alix that her story is worth telling: Josie met her husband when she was 13 and he was 40. “I can see that maybe I was being used, that maybe I was even being groomed?” she confesses to Alix. “But that feeling of being powerful, right at the start, when I was still in control. I miss that sometimes. I really do. And what I’d like, more than anything, is to get it back.” From this premise Alix creates a Netflix series, Hi! I’m Your Birthday Twin! which investigates Josie’s life as she reconciles what happened to her as a teen and seeks a new path. With the story unfinished, the narrative unfolds in the present tense, with prose that jingles like song lyrics: “He turns to see if the girl is behind him, and sees her wishy-washy, wavy-wavy, in double vision through the glass windows of the hotel.” Alix is both intrigued and repulsed by Josie, but she initially gives her the benefit of the doubt. After all, Alix’s husband, Nathan, has a drinking problem, and Alix knows what it’s like to be reluctant to leave a bad situation. But Josie seems more interested in being part of Alix’s seemingly glamorous life than she is in fixing her own, and when three people end up dead and Alix’s life is turned upside down, the evidence points to Josie—and turns the TV series into a murder mystery. Transcripts from Alix’s interviews alternate with the narrative, offering increasingly varied perspectives on Josie’s story as told by her neighbors, friends, and family members. With so many versions of events, the ending shatters, leaving readers to decide whose is the truth.It's hard to read but hard to look away from.
Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2023
Page Count: 384
Review Posted Online: May 24, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2023
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