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


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.


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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Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

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A woman accused of shooting her husband six times in the face refuses to speak.

"Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband. They had been married for seven years. They were both artists—Alicia was a painter, and Gabriel was a well-known fashion photographer." Michaelides' debut is narrated in the voice of psychotherapist Theo Faber, who applies for a job at the institution where Alicia is incarcerated because he's fascinated with her case and believes he will be able to get her to talk. The narration of the increasingly unrealistic events that follow is interwoven with excerpts from Alicia's diary. Ah, yes, the old interwoven diary trick. When you read Alicia's diary you'll conclude the woman could well have been a novelist instead of a painter because it contains page after page of detailed dialogue, scenes, and conversations quite unlike those in any journal you've ever seen. " 'What's the matter?' 'I can't talk about it on the phone, I need to see you.' 'It's just—I'm not sure I can make it up to Cambridge at the minute.' 'I'll come to you. This afternoon. Okay?' Something in Paul's voice made me agree without thinking about it. He sounded desperate. 'Okay. Are you sure you can't tell me about it now?' 'I'll see you later.' Paul hung up." Wouldn't all this appear in a diary as "Paul wouldn't tell me what was wrong"? An even more improbable entry is the one that pins the tail on the killer. While much of the book is clumsy, contrived, and silly, it is while reading passages of the diary that one may actually find oneself laughing out loud.

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30169-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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