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


A unique story of transcendent love.

An aimless young musician meets the girl of his dreams only to have his newfound happiness threatened by several inexplicable—and possibly supernatural—events.

The story opens as Leeds Gabriel meets with a detective while his girlfriend, Layla, is restrained in a room one flight above them. Through the interview, readers learn that Leeds was wasting both his time and his musical talent playing backup for a small-town wedding troupe called Garrett’s Band when he spied Layla dancing her heart out to their mediocre music at a wedding. When Leeds approaches Layla, their connection is both instant and intense. A blissful courtship follows, but then Leeds makes the mistake of posting a picture of himself with Layla on social media. A former girlfriend–turned-stalker wastes no time in finding and attacking Layla. Layla spends months recovering in a hospital, and it seems the girl Leeds fell for might be forever changed. Gone is her special spark, her quirkiness, and the connection that had entranced Leeds months before. In a last-ditch effort to save their relationship, he brings Layla back to the bed-and-breakfast where they first met. When they get there, though, Leeds meets Willow, another guest, and finds himself drawn to her in spite of himself. As events unfold, it becomes clear that Willow will either be the key to saving Leeds’ relationship with Layla or the catalyst that finally extinguishes the last shreds of their epic romance. Told entirely from Leeds’ point of view, the author’s first foray into paranormal romance does not disappoint. Peppered with elements of mystery, psychological thriller, and contemporary romance, the novel explores questions about how quickly true love can develop, as well as the conflicts that can imperil even the strongest connections. Despite a limited cast of characters and very few setting changes, the narrative manages to remain both fast-paced and engaging. The conclusion leaves a few too many loose ends, but the chemistry between the characters and unexpected twists throughout make for a satisfying read.

A unique story of transcendent love.

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5420-0017-8

Page Count: 301

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020


Entertaining and sure to please thriller fans.

Second in the military crime series featuring Special Agents Scott Brodie and Magnolia "Maggie" Taylor, after The Deserter (2019).

In Berlin, U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer Harry Vance slips out of his lover’s bed for a mysterious nighttime meeting. He is an operative in the American Terrorism and Criminal Investigation Unit, or TCIU, and a sniper shoots him dead. Army brass speculates that this is the work of Islamic terrorists, so they bring in Brodie of the Criminal Investigation Division and assign him Taylor as his partner. On foreign soil, “officially and legally” they cannot gather evidence, question witnesses, or make arrests. The two have a one-novel history together, including tension both professional and sexual. “Sex, lies, and betrayal notwithstanding,” though, “they made a pretty good team.” As they search for justice for their fallen colleague, maybe they can figure out why the assassin killed from long range and then apparently walked over and gouged out Vance’s left eye. Maybe evil forces are up to much more than meets the eye, if you’ll pardon the expression. Anyway, the partners complement each other: Taylor is the more rational and level-headed, while Brodie blatantly disregards jurisdictional boundaries when he needs to. He has that nothing-to-lose attitude, given that his career is swirling down the toilet bowl anyway. So if it seems a bit odd that she trusts his judgment, it’s because he's usually right. Co-authors Nelson DeMille and his son Alex have created interesting characters, though Brodie might be the type that appears more in fiction than in the real world: About to be handcuffed by a pair of armed men, he “suddenly spun around and delivered a ball-busting kick, under the guy’s ballistic vest, and into his non-ballistic balls.” Then he bloodies the other fellow before he can draw his weapon. The partners deliver a few punchlines of their own in this fast-moving story that’s replete with twists and danger. Brodie and Taylor are sympathetic characters who accomplish a lot given their limited authority.

Entertaining and sure to please thriller fans.

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2023

ISBN: 9781501101816

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2023

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