Take comfort in Burns’ big-hearted philosophy.



A woman, her family and her effervescent dog come together to navigate life and love in this surprising story.

Lauren McKintock was once a strong, lithe, almost 6-foot-tall ballet dancer. She was an imposing physical presence, but was and still is vulnerable and emotionally damaged. So when multiple sclerosis began to ravage her body, the distress of not being able to dance was compounded by simmering, unresolved childhood grief; a downward spiral ensued. Fortunately, Lauren was raised a proud Okie, so she ultimately takes pride in her strength and optimism. She develops for herself a new kind of dancing, one that involves not classical ballet, but the deceptively simple maneuvers of staying upright and walking a straight line—it’s a tremendously difficult task because every muscle in her body works against her. When she’s alone in Denver without the proper medication, remaining positive throughout the struggle is an almost impossible task. But back home in Edmond, Okla.—with her family, fresh air and a farm where outdoor labor becomes its own kind of dance—a better healing process begins. It doesn’t hurt that she’s blessed with sassy, headstrong relatives who aren’t afraid to kick up some dirt and break the law; nor does it hurt that a kind, handsome—and single—surgeon moved in next door during her absence. While this arrangement might seem culled from a shallow romance novel, Burns has a gift for pulling the reader in with the warmth and nobility of her characters. Her prose is full of clarity and resoluteness that mirrors Lauren’s mindset. The degree of autobiographical influence is left unclear, but Burns writes as though, like Lauren, she was once lost and has now found peace. There are certainly shortcomings (like odd Seventh Seal-like philosophical asides in which Lauren converses with God and asks him the “big” questions), but as the story moves on, those lapses are forgiven, and any cynical reservations fall away in the comfort of Lauren’s world.

Take comfort in Burns’ big-hearted philosophy.

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2011


Page Count: -

Publisher: CrossTimbers

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2012

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Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.


Thriller writer Baldacci (A Minute to Midnight, 2019, etc.) launches a new detective series starring World War II combat vet Aloysius Archer.

In 1949, Archer is paroled from Carderock Prison (he was innocent) and must report regularly to his parole officer, Ernestine Crabtree (she’s “damn fine-looking”). Parole terms forbid his visiting bars or loose women, which could become a problem. Trouble starts when businessman Hank Pittleman offers Archer $100 to recover a ’47 Cadillac that’s collateral for a debt owed by Lucas Tuttle, who readily agrees he owes the money. But Tuttle wants his daughter Jackie back—she’s Pittleman’s girlfriend, and she won’t return to Daddy. Archer finds the car, but it’s been torched. With no collateral to collect, he may have to return his hundred bucks. Meanwhile, Crabtree gets Archer the only job available, butchering hogs at the slaughterhouse. He’d killed plenty of men in combat, and now he needs peace. The Pittleman job doesn’t provide that peace, but at least it doesn’t involve bashing hogs’ brains in. People wind up dead and Archer becomes a suspect. So he noses around and shows that he might have the chops to be a good private investigator, a shamus. This is an era when gals have gams, guys say dang and keep extra Lucky Strikes in their hatbands, and a Lady Liberty half-dollar buys a good meal. The dialogue has a '40s noir feel: “And don’t trust nobody.…I don’t care how damn pretty they are.” There’s adult entertainment at the Cat’s Meow, cheap grub at the Checkered Past, and just enough clichés to prove that no one’s highfalutin. Readers will like Archer. He’s a talented man who enjoys detective stories, won’t keep ill-gotten gains, and respects women. All signs suggest a sequel where he hangs out a shamus shingle.

Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5387-5056-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2019

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Great storytelling about the pursuit of extrajudicial justice.


Ninth in the author’s Gray Man series (Mission Critical, 2019, etc.) in which “the most elite assassin in the world” has his hands full.

Ex–CIA Agent Courtland Gentry (the Gray Man) has Serbian war criminal Ratko Babic in his gun sight, but when he decides instead to kill the old beast face to face, he uncovers a massive sex-slavery ring. “I don’t get off on this,” the Gray Man lies to the reader as he stabs a sentry. “I only kill bad people.” Of course he does. If there weren’t an endless supply of them to slay, he’d have little reason to live. Now, countless young Eastern European women are being lured into sexual slavery and fed into an international pipeline, sold worldwide through “the Consortium.” Bad guys refer to their captives as products, not people. They are “merchandise,” but their plight haunts the Gray Man, so of course he is going to rescue as many women as he can. The road to their salvation will be paved with the dead as he enlists a team of fighters to strike the enemy, which includes a South African dude who is giddy for the chance to meet and kill the Gray Man. Meanwhile, Europol analyst Talyssa Corbu meets the hero while on a personal mission to rescue her sister. “You don’t seem like a psychopath,” she tells him. Indeed, though he could play one on TV. Corbu and her sister are tough and likable characters while the director of the Consortium leads a double life as family man and flesh merchant. Human trafficking is an enormous real-life problem, so it’s satisfying to witness our larger-than-life protagonist put his combat skills to good use. There will be a sequel, of course. As a friend tells the wounded Gentry at the end, he’ll be off killing bozos again before he knows it.

Great storytelling about the pursuit of extrajudicial justice.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09891-2

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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