A well-paced thriller with enough twists to maintain momentum and provide an enjoyable ride to the mostly satisfying...

The Musandam Mystery

After more than 40 years, the coverup of a diabolical Soviet experiment begins to unravel, and members of the Russian hierarchy will go to any lengths to prevent its disclosure in Pell’s (Much More Than a Game, 2015, etc.) espionage sequel.

In 1974, the twin sons of British geologist Christopher Southgate were abducted during a visit to Oman. They were never heard from again, and they were not the only set of twins to vanish. Fast-forward to the present, and Jessica Gleeson, also British, in Minsk, Belarus, is poring through Russian archives to complete a paper in her field of clinical psychology and discovers that someone has placed a folder labeled “Project Genome” on her desk. Later, when Jessica disappears, MI6 in London takes notice. Meanwhile, in Moscow, Anton Adamovich is a rising political star who’s favored by the Russian president to be his successor—but he also has enemies. Pell has the action play out across a broad landscape that includes the Crimea, Odessa, Belarus, Moscow, and London, with a large cast of tough guys that are good, bad, or somewhere in between. It’s left to MI6’s Andrew Ball to uncover the mystery that is Project Genome. Ball, Pell’s recurring hero, isn’t an action figure; the elegant, 60-something, semiretired agent has spent months recuperating from injuries received in Pell’s previous novel, set in Eastern Europe. But when his boss, Daniel Davis, calls upon Ball’s Russian-language expertise to translate some Genome documents, he’s back on the case. Although he’s not quite the central protagonist, he certainly holds the novel’s disparate pieces together. Pell is methodical in weaving a complicated plot that brings together an assortment of miscreants risen from the ashes of the fallen Soviet Union—political hacks, newly minted billionaires, former KGB agents, and, of course, the women who attach themselves to the powerful. Overall, the pages are filled with murder and mayhem, and lots of vodka, delivered in fluid, comfortable prose. Fans will be happy to learn that there’s a new Pell novel scheduled. 

A well-paced thriller with enough twists to maintain momentum and provide an enjoyable ride to the mostly satisfying conclusion.

Pub Date: April 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5246-2876-5

Page Count: 316

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2016

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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