Some thrills, some chills, but tepid overall.



An American doctor finds her roots, and more, in Siberia.

Saldana Tarasova, a dancer in a Russian company visiting the U.S. on a cultural exchange, presents herself in surgeon Natalie March's Washington, D.C., waiting room with an extraordinary claim: She and Natalie are cousins. Natalie believes her mother, Vera, to be the only surviving child of Katarina Melnikova, who was sent to the gulag in 1949 and is presumed dead. But Saldana reveals that Vera managed to escape into the Siberian wilderness and raise a second daughter, Lena, who is the mother of Saldana and her older brother, Mikhail. Once all the connections are established, Saldana puts Natalie in a bind by asking for her help in defecting. Natalie is stuffily reluctant, and Saldana returns to New York City, where her company is dancing. The next day Saldana is dead, killed in her hotel room. There follow some confusing interviews by various enforcement agencies; eventually, at the urging of her mother, who is not well enough to travel, Natalie decides to travel to Siberia to meet her grandmother, her aunt, and her other cousin, beginning a journey to self-discovery. Natalie's aunt Lena has left Yakutsk, and her cousin Mikhail has disappeared. Natalie is recruited by the CIA to find out what she can about Mikhail and his associates, and though she fails to find him, sure enough his associates are up to no good. Having done the CIA's bidding, Natalie is trundled off to the airport to head home, but in a flash of independence she decides to try to locate her family on her own. Much of what ensues strains credulity, though some of her adventures are in themselves quite rewarding and some of the descriptions of Siberia, excellently written. Natalie grows, takes chances, even learns to use bad language, but the accumulated disasters and escapes cost others dearly, and Natalie's burgeoning self-awareness seems cheap.

Some thrills, some chills, but tepid overall.

Pub Date: March 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-947993-43-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Polis Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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


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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Child builds tension to unbearable extremes, then blows it out in sharply choreographed violence, even if his plot has more...


From the Jack Reacher series , Vol. 5

Smashingly suspenseful fifth in Child’s series (Running Blind, 2000, etc.) lands this British author’s rootless, laconic action hero in southwest Texas, where a femme fatale lures him into a family squabble that inevitably turns violent.

In the kind of daylight-noir setting that Jim Thompson loved, ex-military cop Jack Reacher has his thumb out on a lonely west Texas highway when he’s picked up by Carmine Greer, the Mexican-American wife of bad-ol’-boy Sloop Greer. It seems that Sloop, elder son of a white-trash-turned-oil-rich ranching dynasty, is nearing the end of a prison term for tax evasion, and Carmine, whose body Reacher sees is marked with signs of physical abuse, wants Reacher to be her bodyguard—or, failing that, kill the man in such a way that Carmine can still hold on to her terminally cute six-year-old daughter Ellie. Reacher refuses but decides to meet the folks: Rusty, Sloop’s racist, charmless mother, and Bobby, Sloop’s stupid, pugnacious brother. Meanwhile, a trio of paid assassins is littering the Texas roadside with corpses, starting with Sloop’s lawyer, Al Eugene. In a set-piece as good as anything in Elmore Leonard, Bobby sends two ranch-hands to ambush Reacher at an Abilene roadhouse filled with 20 other cowboys spoiling for a fight. Reacher walks away without a scratch, telling Bobby that his hospitalized ranch-hands have “quit.” Child twists his increasingly hokey plot into a pretzel when Sloop is found dead and Carmine confesses to killing him. Reacher just can’t believe that Carmine is guilty and teams up with Alice Aarons, a leggy Jewish lesbian fresh out of law school, who trusts him with her car, her handgun, and her life.

Child builds tension to unbearable extremes, then blows it out in sharply choreographed violence, even if his plot has more holes in it than the shirt Reacher uses for target practice.

Pub Date: July 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-14726-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2001

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