With "a fallen British spy, a one-eyed Italian policeman, a master art thief, [and] a professional assassin from the island...

THE HEIST

Stalwart Israeli agent Gabriel Allon goes in pursuit of stolen art and uncovers billions of dollars purloined by the Butcher of Damascus in this latest by master spycrafter Silva (The English Girl, 2013, etc.).

Allon—part-time art restorer, full-time agent for "the Office," Israel's supersecret spy shop—is working on a Venice restoration project and awaiting the birth of twins with his wife, Chiara. Silva’s setup won’t confuse new readers. As a bonus, he incorporates a precis on classic art, particularly Caravaggio. Soon appears Gen. Ferrari, a policeman tracking art thefts. Ferrari’s a solidly Silva character, not above extorting Allon. A former English diplomat named Bradshaw has been murdered at his Lake Como villa. Ferrari threatens to pin the killing on Allon’s friend Isherwood, the art dealer who discovered the body, unless Allon finds the real killer. Rumor has it that Bradshaw, actually a cashiered spy, may have been in possession of Caravaggio’s priceless "Nativity with St. Francis and St. Lawrence," missing for decades. Sketching complicated logistics and technical details about nefarious art dealings, Silva finagles the left-turn plot twist that makes him a best-seller: Allon discovers stolen art is being used to hide money for Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian dictator. Allon steals Van Gogh’s "Sunflowers" to lure the Butcher’s buyer. Next, Allon heads home to Israel, where Office teammates join the fray, complicated by a few "internecine battles." There’s growing resentment over Allon being slotted as the next Office chief. With stolen art spotted and the source of the buying spree laid to the Alawite rulers, art geeks take a back seat to computer nerds as the team descends on a private bank in Linz, Austria, to pry loose the Butcher’s billions. In erudition, action and temperament, Silva has made Allon the modern-day covert warrior extraordinaire.

With "a fallen British spy, a one-eyed Italian policeman, a master art thief, [and] a professional assassin from the island of Corsica," Allon’s 14th caper is a fun read.

Pub Date: July 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-232005-6

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 10, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once...

DELIVER US FROM EVIL

In Baldacci’s 19th (True Blue, 2009, etc.), boy and girl monster-hunters meet cute.

Evan Waller, aka Fadir Kuchin, aka “the Butcher of Kiev,” aka “the Ukrainian psychopath,” is one of those deep-dyed villains a certain kind of fiction can’t do without. Serving with distinction as part of the Soviet Union’s KGB, he joyfully and indiscriminately killed thousands. Now, many years later, posing as a successful businessman, he’s vacationing in Provence where, unbeknownst to him, two separate clandestine operations are being mounted by people who do not regard him with favor. Reggie Campion—28 and gorgeous—spearheads the first, an ad hoc group of monster-hunting vigilantes. Studly, tall Shaw (no first name supplied) is point guard for a rival team, shadowy enough to leave the matter of its origin ambiguous. While their respective teams reconnoiter and jockey for position, studly boy meets gorgeous girl. Monster-hunters are famous for having trust issues, but clearly these are drawn to each other in the time-honored Hollywood fashion. Shaw saves Reggie’s life. She returns the favor. The attraction deepens and heats up to the point where team-members on both sides grow unsettled by the loss of focus, singularly inopportune since, as monsters go, Waller rises to the second coming of Caligula—ample testimony furnished by a six-page, unsparingly detailed torture scene. In the end, the stalkers strike, bullets fly, screams curdle the blood, love has its innings and a monster does what a monster’s got to do.

The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once again show the stuff it’s made of.

Pub Date: April 20, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-446-56408-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Avon A/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2010

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