DEFEATING OPERATION HYDRA

A rising star in the New York District Attorney’s office suffers her first loss, the high profile prosecution of a defendant accused of a grisly homicide, and spirals into an emotional meltdown that ultimately ensnares her in a dangerous web of drugs, violence and terrorism.

Smith, a trial attorney in Atlanta, Ga., makes good use of his professional experience in this debut novel. The early scenes are packed with engaging cat-and-mouse courtroom drama. A devastating cross-examination of the defendant appears to leave little doubt that prosecutor Sharon Weinstock will win another conviction—that is, until a hung jury results in a mistrial. Weinstock is a compelling character—a young attorney who is tightly wound and keeps her life exceedingly well organized. When she unravels, it is in spectacular form, beginning with an uncharacteristic flight to Aruba and a night of drunken abandon. After an improbable tryst with the very defendant she had been trying to convict, Weinstock finds herself involved with a series of psychopathic charmers who test the limits of her courage and previously untapped skills in a deadly contest set against the backdrop of the second Gulf War. The writing is occasionally uneven (and grammarians may cringe at the haphazard switching of tenses throughout the novel), but Smith keeps the tension steady, providing surprising alliances and backstabbers. A satisfying love interest offers moments of respite from the violence that emerges behind every corner. The nature of “Operation Hydra” itself does not emerge until the final chapters. Were it not for the title and the dust jacket details, readers might not immediately suspect the scope of the larger conspiracy. The major premise of the book becomes less important than the adventure itself. And readers who grow to enjoy Weinstock’s sharp mind and indefatigable determination will be pleased that Smith has set the stage for the possible reappearance of his heroine in a sequel. An entertaining page-turner for devotees of international thrillers.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1462898800

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2012

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

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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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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