An engrossing, deep-in-the-weeds thriller.

The Berlin Wall has just fallen, but following the murder of a close colleague, disillusioned Stasi veteran Emil Grimm finds that escaping his life in East Germany is as risky as ever.

In the chaos following the historic event, intelligence is up for grabs, pitting Russians against Americans against Germans for the names of thousands of agents in the field. Emil lives in a dacha in the woods north of Berlin with his bedridden wife, Bettina, who has ALS, and her caretaker, Karola, who, with the tacit approval of Bettina, has become a second wife to Emil. Among their neighbors is Emil’s former boss, renowned spymaster Markus Wolf (one of the real-life figures in the book). After the murder of Lothar Fischer, his friend and co-conspirator, Emil reaches out to CIA agent Claire Saylor, who has been dispatched to East Germany in hopes of learning the identity of a mole at Langley. He promises to swap her crucial information in return for her getting himself, Bettina, and Karola—who proves to be a great partner in surprising other ways—to freedom. In a kind of woodlands pas de deux, Claire (the protagonist of Fesperman's 2021 gem, The Cover Wife) becomes increasingly invested in Emil’s cause. Until the thrilling climax, what’s at stake—what the pitched strategic battles are about—is treated almost as an afterthought. It's the gamesmanship that matters most. Emil's secret meetings with Wolf have the color and bounce of a much finer wine than the one they’re drinking. A local cop bonds with Emil even as he is being played by him. When a recently retired spy named Clark Baucom says to Claire, “This is all getting pretty complicated,” she’s not at all unhappy about that.

An engrossing, deep-in-the-weeds thriller.

Pub Date: July 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-32160-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: April 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022


The most richly accomplished of the brothers’ pairings to date—and given Connelly’s high standards, that’s saying a lot.

Harry Bosch and the Lincoln Lawyer team up to exonerate a woman who’s already served five years for killing her ex-husband.

The evidence against Lucinda Sanz was so overwhelming that she followed the advice of Frank Silver, the B-grade attorney who’d elbowed his way onto her defense, and pleaded no contest to manslaughter to avoid a life sentence for shooting Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Roberto Sanz in the back as he stalked out of her yard after their latest argument. But now that her son, Eric, is 13, old enough to get recruited by local gangs, she wants to be out of stir and at his side. So she writes to Mickey Haller, who asks his half-brother for help. After all his years working for the LAPD, Bosch is adamant about not working for a criminal defendant, even though Haller’s already taken him on as an associate so that he can get access to private health insurance and a UCLA medical trial for an experimental cancer treatment. But the habeas corpus hearing Haller’s aiming for isn’t, strictly speaking, a criminal defense proceeding, and even a cursory examination of the forensic evidence raises Bosch’s hackles. Bolstered by Bosch’s discoveries and a state-of-the-art digital reconstruction of the shooting, Haller heads to court to face Assistant Attorney General Hayden Morris, who has a few tricks up his own sleeve. The endlessly resourceful courtroom back-and-forth is furious in its intensity, although Haller eventually upstages Bosch, Morris, and everyone else in sight. What really stands out here, however, is that Connelly never lets you forget, from his title onward, the life-or-death issues behind every move in the game.

The most richly accomplished of the brothers’ pairings to date—and given Connelly’s high standards, that’s saying a lot.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9780316563765

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023


Loyal King stans may disagree, but this is a snooze.

A much-beloved author gives a favorite recurring character her own novel.

Holly Gibney made her first appearance in print with a small role in Mr. Mercedes (2014). She played a larger role in The Outsider (2018). And she was the central character in If It Bleeds, a novella in the 2020 collection of the same name. King has said that the character “stole his heart.” Readers adore her, too. One way to look at this book is as several hundred pages of fan service. King offers a lot of callbacks to these earlier works that are undoubtedly a treat for his most loyal devotees. That these easter eggs are meaningless and even befuddling to new readers might make sense in terms of costs and benefits. King isn’t exactly an author desperate to grow his audience; pleasing the people who keep him at the top of the bestseller lists is probably a smart strategy, and this writer achieved the kind of status that whatever he writes is going to be published. Having said all that, it’s possible that even his hardcore fans might find this story a bit slow. There are also issues in terms of style. Much of the language King uses and the cultural references he drops feel a bit creaky. The word slacks occurs with distracting frequency. King uses the phrase keeping it on the down-low in a way that suggests he probably doesn’t understand how this phrase is currently used—and has been used for quite a while. But the biggest problem is that this narrative is framed as a mystery without delivering the pleasures of a mystery. The reader knows who the bad guys are from the start. This can be an effective storytelling device, but in this case, waiting for the private investigator heroine to get to where the reader is at the beginning of the story feels interminable.

Loyal King stans may disagree, but this is a snooze.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2023

ISBN: 9781668016138

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023

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