A deftly plotted homage to the mavens of Cold War spy thrillers.

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THE WHITEHALL MANDARIN

Another Cold War adventure for British MI6 agent Catesby, working at a time when a triple-agent double cross was de rigueur.

Wilson's complicated narrative opens in England, where Catesby is pursuing an American diplomat spying for the Soviet Union. Cauldwell, the double agent, is getting his information from the titled and moneyed British sort who aren’t averse to a weekend country-house orgy and who therefore become perfect extortion targets when they return to Whitehall to tend the Empire’s remnants. It’s all very le Carré until the captured Cauldwell is transferred to U.S. custody and then escapes. At that point, Wilson’s tale goes James Bond: a hijacked DC-7 chased by Super Sabres; a parachute drop into Cuba’s Sierra Madre just in time for Castro to proclaim victory. Central to the tale is Lady Somers, Britain’s first female minister of defense; she has a serious problem with her drug-taking Maoist daughter, Miranda, who's fled England to serve the Revolution. Catesby is sent to Vietnam to find her, and the tale goes all Graham Greene. Thematically, Wilson cares little for the machinations of the old-boy aristocracy who find themselves at the helms of superpowers. He takes shots at Hiroshima's psycho-sexual implications, the Bay of Pigs bumbling, Mao's bad dental habits and the realpolitik of Red China’s quest for the hydrogen bomb. This cynically complex plot is laid over perfectly described settings, from London to Moscow to Vietnam. Wilson’s characters and their consciences come alive to lend the book its power. "The wonderful thing about espionage wasn’t what enemies did to each other, but the way allies stabbed each other in the back," he writes.

A deftly plotted homage to the mavens of Cold War spy thrillers.

Pub Date: May 27, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-909807-53-2

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Arcadia Books

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2014

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Now that Coben’s added politics to his heady brew, expect sex and religion to join the mix.

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THE BOY FROM THE WOODS

Coben’s latest darkest-suburbs thriller sets a decidedly offbeat detective on the trail of a crime with overtones unmistakably redolent of once and future presidential elections.

Wilde is called Wilde because nobody’s known his real name from the moment a pair of hikers found him foraging for himself in Ramapo Mountain State Forest 24 years ago. Now over 40, he’s had experience as both a lost boy and a private investigator. That makes him an obvious person to help when his godson, Sweet Water High School student Matthew Crimstein, expresses concern to his grandmother, attorney Hester Crimstein, that his bullied classmate Naomi Pine has gone missing. Matthew doesn’t really want anyone to help. He doesn’t even want anyone to notice his agitation. But Hester, taking the time from her criminal defense of financial consultant Simon Greene (Run Away, 2019) to worm the details out of him, asks Wilde to lend a hand, and sure enough, Wilde, unearthing an unsavory backstory that links Naomi to bullying classmate Crash Maynard, whose TV producer father, Dash Maynard, is close friends with reality TV star–turned–presidential hopeful Rusty Eggers, finds Naomi hale and hearty. Everything’s hunky-dory for one week, and then she disappears again. And this time, so does Crash after a brief visit to Matthew in which he tearfully confesses his guilt about the bad stuff he did to Naomi. This second disappearance veers into more obviously criminal territory with the arrival of a ransom note that demands, not money, but the allegedly incriminating videotapes of Rusty Eggers that Dash and Delia Maynard have had squirreled away for 30 years. The tapes link Rusty to a forgotten and forgettable homicide and add a paranoid new ripped-from-the-headlines dimension to the author’s formidable range. Readers who can tune out all the subplots will find the kidnappers easy to spot, but Coben finds room for three climactic surprises, one of them a honey.

Now that Coben’s added politics to his heady brew, expect sex and religion to join the mix.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4814-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

THE SILENT PATIENT

A woman accused of shooting her husband six times in the face refuses to speak.

"Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband. They had been married for seven years. They were both artists—Alicia was a painter, and Gabriel was a well-known fashion photographer." Michaelides' debut is narrated in the voice of psychotherapist Theo Faber, who applies for a job at the institution where Alicia is incarcerated because he's fascinated with her case and believes he will be able to get her to talk. The narration of the increasingly unrealistic events that follow is interwoven with excerpts from Alicia's diary. Ah, yes, the old interwoven diary trick. When you read Alicia's diary you'll conclude the woman could well have been a novelist instead of a painter because it contains page after page of detailed dialogue, scenes, and conversations quite unlike those in any journal you've ever seen. " 'What's the matter?' 'I can't talk about it on the phone, I need to see you.' 'It's just—I'm not sure I can make it up to Cambridge at the minute.' 'I'll come to you. This afternoon. Okay?' Something in Paul's voice made me agree without thinking about it. He sounded desperate. 'Okay. Are you sure you can't tell me about it now?' 'I'll see you later.' Paul hung up." Wouldn't all this appear in a diary as "Paul wouldn't tell me what was wrong"? An even more improbable entry is the one that pins the tail on the killer. While much of the book is clumsy, contrived, and silly, it is while reading passages of the diary that one may actually find oneself laughing out loud.

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30169-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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