With so much betraying going on, the author finds himself forced to explain and explicate at length, generating the kind of...

THE BETRAYAL GAME

It’s 1961, the Bay of Pigs is just around the corner and suddenly Havana is hit-man heaven.

Smart, tough, charismatic Fidel Castro is the Cuban people’s choice. Everyone else, it begins to seem, has chosen him for their enemy’s list. The CIA wants him dead, as does the Mafia. Surprisingly enough, so does the KGB, for reasons too darkly geopolitical to clarify here. At any rate, Havana has become a convention center for cold-blooded killers. Into this mean-spirited mélange wanders Professor Mikhail Lammeck, historian and world-class expert in assassination. Well, not wanders exactly—Lammeck is there because he’s convinced that a Castro assassination is inevitable, and that his new book will profit immeasurably from his having borne witness. All this makes him interesting to Bud Calendar of the CIA’s Special Operations Division—a polite label for hit man. Agent Calendar’s current objective is the untimely demise of Castro, and he makes no bones about it. To this end, he intends to recruit Lammeck whether he likes it or not. Say no, Lammeck is warned, and be prepared to endure a variety of humiliating/painful/life-altering experiences. Lammeck caves. But Havana is a place where alliances are things of the moment, and betrayal, as the title suggests, is the name of the game. At times, Calendar will betray Lammeck, who will betray Calendar, who has already betrayed the Mafia, and is ever prepared to betray anyone who doesn’t carry the CIA’s imprimatur. As for Castro—despite bullets, bombs, poisons and the like—he continues somehow to stand defiant.

With so much betraying going on, the author finds himself forced to explain and explicate at length, generating the kind of yada-yada that stops a suspense novel dead in its tracks. Robbins (The Assassins Gallery, 2006, etc.) has done better work.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-553-80442-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2008

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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It’s hard to imagine a single white-collar wage slave who won’t thrill to this latest Robin Hood fantasy of righteous...

WORTH DYING FOR

From the Jack Reacher series , Vol. 15

Whatever business Jack Reacher has in Virginia will have to wait till the world’s most distractible soldier of fortune cleans up the mess he’s stumbled into amid the cornfields of the Midwest.

After hitchhiking as far as Nebraska, Reacher minds his own business precisely long enough for the sozzled doctor sharing a hotel bar with him to get a call from a patient with a nosebleed. Forget about ignoring her, Reacher tells the startled medico. If she’s had nosebleeds recently, she may well be taking aspirin that’s thinned her blood and made it likely that she’ll keep on bleeding. Better to have Reacher drive him to Eleanor Duncan’s house so that he can see whether her husband’s been beating her. In the end, Eleanor’s nosebleed turns out to be inconsequential—it’s not even Seth Duncan who’s beaten her this time—but his perverse, aggressive, utterly characteristic stint as the good Samaritan pulls Reacher into the orbit of Seth’s father Jacob and Seth’s uncles Jasper and Jonas. Because they’re a tight-knit family, they don’t plan to take Reacher’s interference lying down. And because they’re engaged in criminal enterprise, their clients, already putting pressure on them for a mysteriously delayed delivery coming down from Canada, plan to go after this interloper themselves. In a flash, the ex-Army cop is the subject of a manhunt by the Duncans’ thugs, their Italian client’s thugs, the Italian’s Lebanese client’s thugs and the Lebanese’s Iranian clients’ thugs. With so many strong-arm types flooding the prairie, there are plenty of opportunities for violence, treachery and double-crossing—think of a Nebraska remake of A Fistful of Dollars with an international cast—and Child (61 Hours, 2010, etc.) doesn’t miss a single one. By the time he’s finally shaken the dust from his feet, Reacher will have plumbed the depths of a monstrous unsolved crime, cleaned up the county and killed a lot of mostly nameless guys who really deserved it.

It’s hard to imagine a single white-collar wage slave who won’t thrill to this latest Robin Hood fantasy of righteous vengeance.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-385-34431-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2010

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