A lively thriller that gets tripped up on its own satirical message.

A spurned studio heir attempts to form a real-life Jewish cabal in this comic novel.

Following the death of his father, 20-something aspiring screenwriter David Zelig watches as the family film company, Zelig Pictures, is stolen from him by an anti-Semite. He decides to seek help from the fabled Elders of Zion—the shadowy Jewish cabal that secretly controls the world—only to learn that the group is just an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory. But, David wonders, what if they were real? Using the rash of recent synagogue shootings as a rallying cry, David enlists his two best friends—straight-laced techie Jordan Brody and carefree playboy Mitchell Joffe—to form the Trio (since calling themselves the Elders of Zion would be too much of a giveaway). As the three set out to gain some influence, they quickly run up against the plethora of secret societies that are already operating in America: Islamic terrorists, the Knights Templar, and even a lost tribe descended from the last czar of Russia. Forced to scramble to keep from winding up the victim of these various plotters, David finds himself tasked with stealing a collection of rare Fabergé eggs, locating Jesus’ preserved foreskin, and preventing a massive attack on a Jewish lobbying group. But can he get his family’s company back? Sofer’s prose is urgent but imbued with a sense of humor: “ ‘Am I glad to see you!’ David lied. He shifted uncomfortably on the back seat of the unmarked FBI cruiser, his arms cuffed behind his back….Special Agent Marco Hernandez was not the last person David had wanted to see, but he was on the shortlist.” The book is fairly entertaining from a purely narrative perspective—there are plenty of twists and reversals as well as some action sequences—but its themes are somewhat hard to pin down. The author seems to suggest that everybody is hatching a conspiracy theory except for the Jews, which seems like a strange lesson to take away from a history of anti-Semitic conspiracies. For all the imagination on display, readers will wish there was a deeper point to be made.

A lively thriller that gets tripped up on its own satirical message.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-950139-00-2

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: April 6, 2020


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


Lots of violent action with little payoff.

Jack Ryan Jr. is back to risk life and limb in saving a teenage girl from international killers while his father, U.S. President Jack Ryan Sr., figures out what to do with Iran’s clandestine uranium enrichment facility, hidden in a mine.

Junior, head of the secret intelligence outfit The Campus, which was functionally wiped out in Tom Clancy Flash Point (2023), is heading across Texas to a rendezvous with his fiancee, Lisanne Robertson, a one-armed former Marine and cop. He’s waylaid by the aftermath of a multi-vehicle accident that he discovers resulted from a gun attack that left a driver hanging on for life, and now puts Jack in the crosshairs of the gunmen. A tip leads him to a 4 a.m. meeting with Amanda, a single mom whose impetuous daughter, Bella, has run off with her highly undesirable boyfriend only to be abducted by the baddies. the nation’s capital, American surveillance has determined that Iran is on the cusp of nuclear armament. The only way to stop them is unleashing an unpiloted and untested super plane with massive destructive power. The book’s treatment of Iran’s “existential threat to the entire globe” as a subplot is rather curious, to say the least. You keep waiting for Bentley to connect the two stories, but that happens only superficially. Late in the book, we are told as an afterthought that Iran’s immediate threat had been “mitigated.” Unfortunately, there is no mitigation of the novel’s hackneyed prose—"The analytical portion of Jack’s brain couldn’t help but be impressed.”

Lots of violent action with little payoff.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2023

ISBN: 9780593422816

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2023

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