Amateurish writing issues abound, but a ghoulishly fun thriller nonetheless.

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BURIED WITH HONOR

An American contractor in Iraq hatches a scheme to grab a cache of cash uncovered at an old Ba’aht hideout before the Army can get the money back to the States.

Bowe LaDeau is a bad man. He’s an opportunistic war contractor, a Machiavellian near-genius who anticipated the windfall for the military-support industry and positioned himself early to be a part of the action. While working in Iraq, LaDeau catches wind of a monumental discovery—more than $300 million in American bills found in a building that the locals connect with that founding member of the Axis of Evil, Saddam Hussein. As soon as he hears the news, LaDeau makes his play for the cash. Conspiracies, intimidation and murder follow, and no one—not even dead American soldiers—gets away unscathed. While the narration occasionally floats over to soldiers as they search for Saddam, discover cabinets filled with cash and photos and encounter a deadly roadside bomb, readers mostly follow LaDeau and his cronies, which proves to be great fun. It’s like watching the action of Oliver Twist from Fagin’s perspective, and the book keeps the tension high by allowing us to encounter danger as the thieves encounter it, and by keeping the soldiers and the investigators at a distance. However, the characters are thin, caricature-level portraits, with all the villains sporting exaggerated accents (say LaDeau’s full name out loud to get a sense of how cartoonish he is), while the soldiers and Iraqi nationals are portrayed as instinctively good-natured and dutiful, a characterization that undervalues the serious psychological toll and sacrifice that war exacts from combatants and civilians. With its flat characterizations, strained transitions and pages and pages of curt, declarative sentences, the writing hinders full enjoyment of the adventure.

Amateurish writing issues abound, but a ghoulishly fun thriller nonetheless.

Pub Date: Jan. 25, 2011

ISBN: 978-1617390692

Page Count: 286

Publisher: Tate/Abrams

Review Posted Online: April 21, 2011

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A romantic, sad, and ultimately hopeful book that’s perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes.

GHOSTED

In Walsh’s American debut, a woman desperately tries to find out why the man she spent a whirlwind week with never called.

Sarah has just separated from her American husband and is visiting her hometown in England when she meets Eddie. He’s kind and charming, and although they only spend one week together, she falls in love. When he has to leave for a trip, she knows they’ll keep in touch—they’re already making plans for the rest of their lives. But then Eddie never calls, and Sarah’s increasingly frantic efforts to contact him are fruitless. Is he hurt? Is he dead? As her friends tell her, there’s a far greater likelihood that he’s just blowing her off—she’s been ghosted. After trying to track Eddie down at a football game, Sarah starts to become ashamed of herself—after all, she’s almost 40 years old and she’s essentially stalking a man who never called her. But as Sarah slowly learns, she and Eddie didn’t actually meet randomly—they both have a connection to an accident that happened years ago, and it may have something to do with why he disappeared. The tension quickly amps up as the secrets of Eddie’s and Sarah’s pasts are revealed, and the truth behind their connection is genuinely surprising and heartbreaking. The barriers between Sarah and Eddie seem insurmountable at times, and although their issues are resolved in a tidy manner, the emotions behind their actions are always believable. Walsh has created a deeply moving romance with an intriguing mystery and a touching portrait of grief at its heart.

A romantic, sad, and ultimately hopeful book that’s perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes.

Pub Date: July 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-52277-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

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THE STARLESS SEA

A withdrawn graduate student embarks on an epic quest to restore balance to the world in this long-anticipated follow-up to The Night Circus (2011).

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a typical millennial introvert; he likes video games, escapist reading, and drinking sidecars. But when he recognizes himself in the pages of a mysterious book from the university library, he's unnerved—and determined to uncover the truth. What begins as a journey for answers turns into something much bigger, and Zachary must decide whether to trust the handsome stranger he meets at a highflying literary fundraiser in New York or to retreat back to his thesis and forget the whole affair. In a high-wire feat of metatextual derring-do, Morgenstern weaves Zachary's adventure into a stunning array of linked fables, myths, and origin stories. There are pirates and weary travelers, painters who can see the future, lovers torn asunder, a menacing Owl King, and safe harbors for all the stories of the world, far below the Earth on the golden shores of a Starless Sea. Clocking in at more than 500 pages, the novel requires patience as Morgenstern puts all the pieces in place, but it is exquisitely pleasurable to watch the gears of this epic fantasy turn once they're set in motion. As in The Night Circus, Morgenstern is at her best when she imagines worlds and rooms and parties in vivid detail, right down to the ballroom stairs "festooned with lanterns and garlands of paper dipped in gold" or a cloak carved from ice with "ships and sailors and sea monsters...lost in the drifting snow." This novel is a love letter to readers as much as an invitation: Come and see how much magic is left in the world. Fans of Neil Gaiman and V.E. Schwab, Kelly Link and Susanna Clarke will want to heed the call.

An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54121-3

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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