A commendable addition and a smashing conclusion to the tetralogy—though there’s room for even more.

READ REVIEW

Shadowmaster IV--Dream a Little Dream

Safflind’s (Shadowmaster III: Star Light, Star Bright, 2012, etc.) supernatural thriller series returns with the counterespionage team trying to stop a suspected plot to sabotage a nuclear reactor.

Powerful budding empath Barry Sandler and ex-Navy SEAL Stanley Egor, both part of Investigative Services Incorporated, are sent to Cuba circa 1999, where a newly completed nuclear reactor will soon start running. Dr. Adrian Kahler, a telepath and ISI member, believes the Collective—a covert group and old enemy—has aspirations of nuclear attacks. Barry, Egor and Lisette, their Cuban contact, uncover much more than a political overthrow, as religious followers venture toward murder and terrorism. This volume in the series once again incorporates a supernatural element as a backdrop, with a plot driven by action and murder mystery. But while ISI has previously taken on vampires and extraterrestrial messages, the fourth book is a bit more down-to-earth, with Barry and Egor combating a villain’s mind control over Santeria believers. The villain’s motivation for brainwashing is essentially to recruit people for a terrorist act, all for the purpose of taking power from Fidel Castro and lifting the U.S. embargo. That’s not to say the story doesn’t have its share of strange, unsettling moments: Barry begins the novel in Cancún with Marta, a Cuban woman, and has a vision of her transformation into a tigress, slashing at his chest and throat; and while being held captive, Barry’s biggest threats are overly aggressive rats. This time around, Barry seems less of an apprentice, since Adrian—who typically extracts info via his target’s hypnotic state—can merely disperse advice over the phone. Barry must rely on his own empathic skills; fortunately, his ability, which he has yet to perfect, proves advantageous, particularly when he senses Lisette’s physical pain while they’re apart. Standing over seven feet tall, Egor has an imposing stature that’s shown as a peril for the baddies, though it’s just as often played for laughs: He crams himself into airplane seats and the back of Lisette’s ’55 Chevy, and he needs two mattresses for sleeping. Elsewhere, the political turmoil in communist Cuba is suitably established, mostly in drawn-out discussions between Cuban Lisette and capitalism-loving Barry.

A commendable addition and a smashing conclusion to the tetralogy—though there’s room for even more.

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2012

ISBN: 978-1475200294

Page Count: 420

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 25, 2013

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Slow moving and richly layered.

THE SEARCHER

A retired cop takes one last case in this stand-alone novel from the creator of the Dublin Murder Squad.

Originally from North Carolina, Cal Hooper has spent the last 30 years in Chicago. “A small place. A small town in a small country”: That’s what he’s searching for when he moves to the West of Ireland. His daughter is grown, his wife has left him, so Cal is on his own—until a kid named Trey starts hanging around. Trey’s brother is missing. Everyone believes that Brendan has run off just like his father did, but Trey thinks there’s more to the story than just another young man leaving his family behind in search of money and excitement in the city. Trey wants the police detective who just emigrated from America to find out what’s really happened to Brendan. French is deploying a well-worn trope here—in fact, she’s deploying a few. Cal is a new arrival to an insular community, and he’s about to discover that he didn’t leave crime and violence behind when he left the big city. Cal is a complex enough character, though, and it turns out that the mystery he’s trying to solve is less shocking than what he ultimately discovers. French's latest is neither fast-paced nor action-packed, and it has as much to do with Cal’s inner life as it does with finding Brendan. Much of what mystery readers are looking for in terms of action is squeezed into the last third of the novel, and the morally ambiguous ending may be unsatisfying for some. But French’s fans have surely come to expect imperfect allegiance to genre conventions, and the author does, ultimately, deliver plenty of twists, shocking revelations, and truly chilling moments.

Slow moving and richly layered.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-73-522465-0

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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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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