The technical snags are defeated by two vicious criminal minds.

SILK ON THE ROCKS

There’s no sophomore slump for Tanz as he brings his Philly style back to this cat-and-mouse crime story that weaves together the lives of two serial killers.

Bruce Titell is a classic computer geek: His life revolves around computing power, processors and software updates. His wife, thinly fleshed-out Julie Donovan, has repaid his lack of interest in their marriage with multiple affairs, all procured from online “cheaters” websites. After her shocking death in a car crash, Titell takes his deep-seated rage and fuels it into a revenge plot that ultimately involves murdering women who stray. Tanz crosses his story with that of mob hit man Julian Gando, a Philadelphia transplant whose life revolves around killing and his former-call-girl live-in love, Bryant Merril. Bruce and Julian are both being watched by the city’s top-notch Organized Crime Task Force, whose undercover cops and computer code crackers doggedly pursue the blood-soaked criminals. Tanz creates a wickedly twisted world, although Titell’s transformation from upstanding businessman to crazed murderer is a bit rushed. Yet it’s hard to put the book down because Titell and Gando pursue their crimes in such a heartless, detailed fashion. Spelling errors and strange details, such as what every character eats or drinks, tend to slow down the story, and Tanz sometimes bogs down the flow with updates on when Titell decides to go shopping or head to bed. Fortunately, there’s plenty of intrigue to make up for these minor storytelling deficiencies. In particular, Titell’s use of cheater websites and his ability to morph into his killer character—“SmoothAssSilk”—provide fascinating chapters, pulling the character’s madness into disturbingly realistic depths: “He pushed back from the desk, took a long sip of whiskey and turned on the computer. After loading, he clicked on Favorites and entered the site. He smiled broadly when he noticed two replies and four flirts adorning his inbox.” It’s chilling to watch the two men descend from their everyday lives into complete darkness.

The technical snags are defeated by two vicious criminal minds.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-1477431016

Page Count: 234

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2012

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Sprawling and only intermittently suspenseful till that last act: below average for this distinguished series.

OCEAN PREY

No oceans in Minnesota, you say? That won’t stop Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers, who are clearly determined to burn through their bucket list on the federal government’s dime.

The murders of three Coast Guard officers chasing a suspicious boat in Florida waters by crooks who set fire to the boat moments after abandoning it send shock waves through the DEA, the FBI, and eventually the U.S. Marshals Service. In short order Lucas and his colleague and pal Bob Matees find themselves on a task force Florida Sen. Christopher Colles convenes to find the drugs the fugitives managed to dump into the Atlantic before they shot their pursuers and arrest everyone in sight. The duo’s modus operandi seems to be to talk to everyone who’s seen anything, and then talk to everyone they’ve mentioned, and so on, taking regular breaks to drink, reminisce, and swap wisecracks. Everything is so relaxed and routine that fans of this long-running series will just know that Sandford has something more up his sleeve, and he does. Eventually the task force’s net widens to make room for Virgil, who, working with Marshal Rae Givens, hires himself out to the criminals as a diver who can retrieve those drugs while Lucas and his allies work their way higher and higher up the food chain of baddies. The cast is enormous and mostly forgettable, but Sandford manages to work up a full head of steam when Lucas realizes that his scorched-earth tactics have put Virgil and Rae in serious danger.

Sprawling and only intermittently suspenseful till that last act: below average for this distinguished series.

Pub Date: April 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-08702-2

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE

In December 1926, mystery writer Agatha Christie really did disappear for 11 days. Was it a hoax? Or did her husband resort to foul play?

When Agatha meets Archie on a dance floor in 1912, the obscure yet handsome pilot quickly sweeps her off her feet with his daring. Archie seems smitten with her. Defying her family’s expectations, Agatha consents to marry Archie rather than her intended, the reliable yet boring Reggie Lucy. Although the war keeps them apart, straining their early marriage, Agatha finds meaningful work as a nurse and dispensary assistant, jobs that teach her a lot about poisons, knowledge that helps shape her early short stories and novels. While Agatha’s career flourishes after the war, Archie suffers setback after setback. Determined to keep her man happy, Agatha finds herself cooking elaborate meals, squelching her natural affections for their daughter (after all, Archie must always feel like the most important person in her life), and downplaying her own troubles, including her grief over her mother's death. Nonetheless, Archie grows increasingly morose. In fact, he is away from home the day Agatha disappears. By the time Detective Chief Constable Kenward arrives, Agatha has already been missing for a day. After discovering—and burning—a mysterious letter from Agatha, Archie is less than eager to help the police. His reluctance and arrogance work against him, and soon the police, the newspapers, the Christies’ staff, and even his daughter’s classmates suspect him of harming his wife. Benedict concocts a worthy mystery of her own, as chapters alternate between Archie’s negotiation of the investigation and Agatha’s recounting of their relationship. She keeps the reader guessing: Which narrator is reliable? Who is the real villain?

A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4926-8272-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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