An action-packed mystery bathed in impeccable historic atmosphere.

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THE SCENT OF DANGER

For Queen Elizabeth’s half sister and sometime spy, even a trip to visit relatives is fraught with danger in 1586.

Ursula Stannard’s last adventure (A Web of Silk, 2019, etc.) left her with twin girls to care for. One is now married; the other, 20-year-old Joyce, still lives with her and still blames her for her father’s incarceration in the Tower of London. While going over the ledgers for one of her properties, Ursula realizes that her trusted steward has been cheating her. When she and Roger Brockley, her longtime servant and partner in adventure, ask for an explanation, the steward tells them he’s being blackmailed by his Uncle Crispin about a youthful indiscretion. Deciding to kill three birds with one stone, Ursula, Joyce, the Brockleys, and a groom travel to Devon to threaten Crispin, visit her relatives, the Hillman family, and check up on two agents she recruited for Walsingham, the queen’s spymaster. Upon their arrival, Ursula learns Peter Gray, one of the agents, has been killed in a very odd accident and that Gregory Reeves, the other agent, was found frozen to death on the moor. Certain that neither death was accidental, Ursula begins to ask questions. Because a fire at her relatives’ house has made space tight, she and her party rent rooms from Henry and Catherine Gresham, a puritanical couple who are forcing their daughter, Mildred, into marriage with a much older man. Ursula seeks help from the vicar, Dr. Lucious Parker, and his homely but clever sister, Sabina. All too soon, word spreads about Ursula’s quest, and she nearly dies when she’s poisoned in a tavern. She recovers but becomes increasingly entangled in local affairs like Mildred’s doomed romance. Sick and tired of endless involvement in the queen’s business, she nevertheless feels it her duty to persevere even though she fears for her life.

An action-packed mystery bathed in impeccable historic atmosphere.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1780291338

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Severn House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

CROOKED RIVER

FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast finds evil afoot in his latest action-filled adventure (Verses for the Dead, 2018, etc.).

Imagine Florida beachcombers’ shock when they discover a shoe with a severed foot inside. Soon they see dozens more feet, all in identical shoes, bobbing toward the beach. Police and FBI ultimately count more than a hundred of them washing up on Sanibel and Captiva Islands' tranquil shores. Pendergast teams up with the junior Special Agent Armstrong Coldmoon to investigate this strange phenomenon. Oceanographers use a supercomputer to analyze Gulf currents and attempt to determine where the feet entered the ocean. Were they dumped off a ship or an island? Does each one represent a homicide? Analysts examine chemical residues and pollen, even the angle of each foot’s amputation, but the puzzle defies all explanation. Attention focuses on Cuba, where “something terrible was happening” in front of a coastal prison, and on China, the apparent source of the shoes. The clever plot is “a most baffling case indeed” for the brilliant Pendergast, but it’s the type of problem he thrives on. He’s hardly a stereotypical FBI agent, given for example his lemon-colored silk suit, his Panama hat, and his legendary insistence on working alone—until now. Pendergast rarely blinks—perhaps, someone surmises, he’s part reptile. But equally odd is Constance Greene, his “extraordinarily beautiful,” smart, and sarcastic young “ward” who has “eyes that had seen everything and, as a result, were surprised by nothing.” Coldmoon is more down to earth: part Lakota, part Italian, and “every inch a Fed.” Add in murderous drug dealers, an intrepid newspaper reporter, coyotes crossing the U.S.–Mexico border, and a pissed-off wannabe graphic novelist, and you have a thoroughly entertaining cast of characters. There is plenty of suspense, and the action gets bloody.

Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4725-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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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.

ONE GOOD DEED

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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