As good as the genre gets. Don’t miss it.

READ REVIEW

BRIMSTONE

An outrageously entertaining thriller from these accomplished co-authors (Still Life With Crows, 2003, etc.).

Satanic murders are the bill of fare here. Defrocked NYC policeman and sometime mystery novelist Vincent D’Agosta (now on the Southampton force) re-teams with superrich polymath FBI agent Aloysius Pendergast to investigate the suspicious death of much-hated art critic Jeremy Grove, whose burned corpse shows signs of demonic maltreatment. After the two learn that the deceased’s recent dinner guests all had reasons to off him, Pendergast trades repartee with adipose Italian aristocrat Count Fosco (blithely lifted from Wilkie Collins’s classic The Woman in White), D’Agosta survives a professional hit, and another similar murder brings Homicide Captain Laura Hayward into the mix (and D’Agosta’s amorous purview). Wealthy industrialist Locke Bullard, who had known connections to both victims, angrily resists interrogation—and may be helping supply China with un-interceptible long-range missiles. The discovery of further connections sends Pendergast and D’Agosta to Italy, where several involved persons living and dead met for nefarious purposes 30 years earlier. Meanwhile, in a thoroughly uninteresting subplot, convicted murderer and born-again preacher Wayne Buck turns the aforementioned rumors of demonic violence to his advantage, assembling an “army” of believers with whose excesses the beleaguered NYPD must also deal. No matter: Preston and Child have mastered the sure-fire technique of quickly shifting the scene and periodically introducing intriguing new characters. And when Pendergast and D’Agosta reach the ancient “Castello” where their villain resides and all answers lie, a protracted (though quite gripping) climax ingeniously links Chinese WMDs with a priceless Stradivarius violin and the duplicitous employment of an ancient grimoire. A muted ending yields to a smashing Epilogue, one that sets the stage for a further continuation of this exhilarating series.

As good as the genre gets. Don’t miss it.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2004

ISBN: 0-446-53143-X

Page Count: 500

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2004

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Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

CROOKED RIVER

FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast finds evil afoot in his latest action-filled adventure (Verses for the Dead, 2018, etc.).

Imagine Florida beachcombers’ shock when they discover a shoe with a severed foot inside. Soon they see dozens more feet, all in identical shoes, bobbing toward the beach. Police and FBI ultimately count more than a hundred of them washing up on Sanibel and Captiva Islands' tranquil shores. Pendergast teams up with the junior Special Agent Armstrong Coldmoon to investigate this strange phenomenon. Oceanographers use a supercomputer to analyze Gulf currents and attempt to determine where the feet entered the ocean. Were they dumped off a ship or an island? Does each one represent a homicide? Analysts examine chemical residues and pollen, even the angle of each foot’s amputation, but the puzzle defies all explanation. Attention focuses on Cuba, where “something terrible was happening” in front of a coastal prison, and on China, the apparent source of the shoes. The clever plot is “a most baffling case indeed” for the brilliant Pendergast, but it’s the type of problem he thrives on. He’s hardly a stereotypical FBI agent, given for example his lemon-colored silk suit, his Panama hat, and his legendary insistence on working alone—until now. Pendergast rarely blinks—perhaps, someone surmises, he’s part reptile. But equally odd is Constance Greene, his “extraordinarily beautiful,” smart, and sarcastic young “ward” who has “eyes that had seen everything and, as a result, were surprised by nothing.” Coldmoon is more down to earth: part Lakota, part Italian, and “every inch a Fed.” Add in murderous drug dealers, an intrepid newspaper reporter, coyotes crossing the U.S.–Mexico border, and a pissed-off wannabe graphic novelist, and you have a thoroughly entertaining cast of characters. There is plenty of suspense, and the action gets bloody.

Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4725-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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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.

ONE GOOD DEED

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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