Will the forces of good prevail? Stay tuned—but bet your bippy that there will be a sequel.



A lascivious senator meets an untoward end. The president’s bewildered daughter is involved—and so is tough but sensitive ATF agent Jack McClure, the hero of the piece.

Readers met McClure (and said bewildered one) in First Daughter (2009). Van Lustbader (The Testament, 2006, etc.), carefully fueling the franchise, drops us smack down where the thrills and spills left off. McClure, dyslexic but a close reader of human nature all the same, is now in President Edward Carson’s inner circle, charged, among other things, with keeping young missy out of danger. Fat chance, for the bad guys have designs on her, on the president, on all that is good and noble about the American way of life. Of course, there’s bunches of politicos on Capitol Hill who have no idea of what those ideals might mean, and they’ve been shacking up with the apparatchiks and new rich and uranium hustlers across the waters in Putin’s Russia, aka the Evil Empire. McClure knows that the game’s afoot, and that he’s pretty much on his own (“He had always been an outsider—from his dyslexia to his unorthodox upbringing he’s never fit in, and, as he’d finally been able to admit to himself if not to anyone else...he didn’t want to.”) Enter sweet, sassy and ever so lethal Annika, “a member of an undercover unit of the Russian Federal Police...you could call her a spy without fear of contradiction,” who has Electra complex issues of her own, and the fun really gets going. The necklines are low and the body count is high, fulfilling formula obligations; but Van Lustbader is an old hand at this spy-vs.-spy stuff, having resurrected Jason Bourne in the wake of Robert Ludlum’s departure from the planet, and he throws in enough twists and turns (and karate chops and slippery Crimean byways) to keep things original and interesting.

Will the forces of good prevail? Stay tuned—but bet your bippy that there will be a sequel.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-7653-2515-0

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.


Thriller writer Baldacci (A Minute to Midnight, 2019, etc.) launches a new detective series starring World War II combat vet Aloysius Archer.

In 1949, Archer is paroled from Carderock Prison (he was innocent) and must report regularly to his parole officer, Ernestine Crabtree (she’s “damn fine-looking”). Parole terms forbid his visiting bars or loose women, which could become a problem. Trouble starts when businessman Hank Pittleman offers Archer $100 to recover a ’47 Cadillac that’s collateral for a debt owed by Lucas Tuttle, who readily agrees he owes the money. But Tuttle wants his daughter Jackie back—she’s Pittleman’s girlfriend, and she won’t return to Daddy. Archer finds the car, but it’s been torched. With no collateral to collect, he may have to return his hundred bucks. Meanwhile, Crabtree gets Archer the only job available, butchering hogs at the slaughterhouse. He’d killed plenty of men in combat, and now he needs peace. The Pittleman job doesn’t provide that peace, but at least it doesn’t involve bashing hogs’ brains in. People wind up dead and Archer becomes a suspect. So he noses around and shows that he might have the chops to be a good private investigator, a shamus. This is an era when gals have gams, guys say dang and keep extra Lucky Strikes in their hatbands, and a Lady Liberty half-dollar buys a good meal. The dialogue has a '40s noir feel: “And don’t trust nobody.…I don’t care how damn pretty they are.” There’s adult entertainment at the Cat’s Meow, cheap grub at the Checkered Past, and just enough clichés to prove that no one’s highfalutin. Readers will like Archer. He’s a talented man who enjoys detective stories, won’t keep ill-gotten gains, and respects women. All signs suggest a sequel where he hangs out a shamus shingle.

Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5387-5056-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2019

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Great storytelling about the pursuit of extrajudicial justice.


Ninth in the author’s Gray Man series (Mission Critical, 2019, etc.) in which “the most elite assassin in the world” has his hands full.

Ex–CIA Agent Courtland Gentry (the Gray Man) has Serbian war criminal Ratko Babic in his gun sight, but when he decides instead to kill the old beast face to face, he uncovers a massive sex-slavery ring. “I don’t get off on this,” the Gray Man lies to the reader as he stabs a sentry. “I only kill bad people.” Of course he does. If there weren’t an endless supply of them to slay, he’d have little reason to live. Now, countless young Eastern European women are being lured into sexual slavery and fed into an international pipeline, sold worldwide through “the Consortium.” Bad guys refer to their captives as products, not people. They are “merchandise,” but their plight haunts the Gray Man, so of course he is going to rescue as many women as he can. The road to their salvation will be paved with the dead as he enlists a team of fighters to strike the enemy, which includes a South African dude who is giddy for the chance to meet and kill the Gray Man. Meanwhile, Europol analyst Talyssa Corbu meets the hero while on a personal mission to rescue her sister. “You don’t seem like a psychopath,” she tells him. Indeed, though he could play one on TV. Corbu and her sister are tough and likable characters while the director of the Consortium leads a double life as family man and flesh merchant. Human trafficking is an enormous real-life problem, so it’s satisfying to witness our larger-than-life protagonist put his combat skills to good use. There will be a sequel, of course. As a friend tells the wounded Gentry at the end, he’ll be off killing bozos again before he knows it.

Great storytelling about the pursuit of extrajudicial justice.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09891-2

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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