A carousel of stereotypes, devoid of suspense.

ROBERT LUDLUM'S THE BOURNE IMPERATIVE

Jason Bourne is alive and well, but this, the 10th installment of the franchise, is tired.

The prolific Van Lustbader’s (Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Dominion, 2011, etc.) latest Bourne is tedious. The prologue: A man is running, a woman pursuing, across a snowbound landscape in Sweden. They engage in hollow dialogue, punctuated by witless description, then proceed to the killing. While fishing and discussing conspiracies with his friend Christien Norén, Bourne snags a body, lifts it from the water. Flash to the Oval Office. The secretary of defense is briefing a dubious president, who is asking pointed questions about the health of Treadstone directors Peter Marks and Soraya Moore and checking on Dick Richards, his eyes in the spy shop. We glimpse Marks and Moore back in the office, then overhear a conversation at Mossad headquarters: Rebeka, a prized agent, has gone rogue; Ilan Halevy, “the Babylonian,” is sent to kill her. It is not long before Bourne becomes reacquainted with Rebeka; the man fished from the icy waters regains his memory; and the mystery deepens about the Israeli research facility in Lebanon. We become acquainted with financier Don Fernando, “sometime partner” of Norén. He has suspicions about Core Energy’s CEO, Tom Brick. A shadowy character identified as Nicodemo is doing Brick’s dirty laundry—extorting, killing. Before long Bourne and Rebeka are chasing Nicodemo from one side of the Atlantic while Moore and Marks try to net him on the other. The Chinese have a stake in the Israeli research, Dick Richards is tricky, and a Mexican cartel boss, who, like almost everybody, wants Bourne dead, may have the funds, the smarts and the guts to outspend and outmaneuver—on and on it spins.

A carousel of stereotypes, devoid of suspense.

Pub Date: June 5, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-4465-6447-2

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

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The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once...

DELIVER US FROM EVIL

In Baldacci’s 19th (True Blue, 2009, etc.), boy and girl monster-hunters meet cute.

Evan Waller, aka Fadir Kuchin, aka “the Butcher of Kiev,” aka “the Ukrainian psychopath,” is one of those deep-dyed villains a certain kind of fiction can’t do without. Serving with distinction as part of the Soviet Union’s KGB, he joyfully and indiscriminately killed thousands. Now, many years later, posing as a successful businessman, he’s vacationing in Provence where, unbeknownst to him, two separate clandestine operations are being mounted by people who do not regard him with favor. Reggie Campion—28 and gorgeous—spearheads the first, an ad hoc group of monster-hunting vigilantes. Studly, tall Shaw (no first name supplied) is point guard for a rival team, shadowy enough to leave the matter of its origin ambiguous. While their respective teams reconnoiter and jockey for position, studly boy meets gorgeous girl. Monster-hunters are famous for having trust issues, but clearly these are drawn to each other in the time-honored Hollywood fashion. Shaw saves Reggie’s life. She returns the favor. The attraction deepens and heats up to the point where team-members on both sides grow unsettled by the loss of focus, singularly inopportune since, as monsters go, Waller rises to the second coming of Caligula—ample testimony furnished by a six-page, unsparingly detailed torture scene. In the end, the stalkers strike, bullets fly, screams curdle the blood, love has its innings and a monster does what a monster’s got to do.

The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once again show the stuff it’s made of.

Pub Date: April 20, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-446-56408-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Avon A/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2010

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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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