The result, very reminiscent of John le Carré’s early detective stories Call for the Dead and A Murder of Quality, is a...

Poisoned Pen’s line of British Library Classic Thrillers takes a leap forward from the golden age in reprinting this 1967 tale by antiquarian bookseller Sims (1923-99), who certainly writes what he knows.

Interrupting a Corsican holiday in which he’s solaced himself for his troubled marriage by taking a lover young enough to be his daughter, art dealer T. Edward Balfour is recalled to London by a pair of telegrams. The first, from his colleague and best friend, Holocaust survivor Sammy Weiss, begs “YOUR ADVICE ON TERRIBLE DECISION I MUST MAKE”; the second, from Ned’s estranged wife, Barbara, informs him that Sammy is dead after a plunge from a 10th-story window. Shaken by the horror of Sammy’s death, Ned is also troubled by its mystery: even if his friend wanted to kill himself, why would he have chosen this manner of death given the long-standing vertigo his friends all knew about? Vowing that “I think it’s about time I made a real effort to change,” Ned launches a discreet investigation into Sammy’s death, focusing on a mysterious list of names he left behind: Knowl Green, Steiner, Quarry. But it’s not discreet enough to escape the notice of debt collector Victor Maddox, who slaps Ned around and warns of worse treatment if he doesn’t stop asking questions. As Ned takes a fresh look at his familiar world of art collectors, auctions, and dealers, he gradually realizes he’s on the trail of some serious malfeasance. But even his most shocking discoveries are filtered through a thick scrim of his everyday experiences and his equally homely reflections on them.

The result, very reminiscent of John le Carré’s early detective stories Call for the Dead and A Murder of Quality, is a heightened sense of contrast between the vague impressions the hero’s always assumed are reliable and the yawning gulf beneath.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4642-0900-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Poisoned Pen

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017


Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

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. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020


As in summer movies, a triple dose of violence conceals the absence of real menace when neither victims nor avengers stir...

Dr. Alex Cross has left Metro DC Homicide for the FBI, but it’s business as usual in this laughably rough-hewn fairy tale of modern-day white slavery.

According to reliable sources, more people are being sold into slavery than ever before, and it all seems to be going down on the FBI’s watch. Atlanta ex-reporter Elizabeth Connolly, who looks just like Claudia Schiffer, is the ninth target over the past two years to be abducted by a husband-and-wife pair who travel the country at the behest of the nefarious Pasha Sorokin, the Wolf of the Red Mafiya. The only clues are those deliberately left behind by the kidnappers, who snatch fashion designer Audrey Meek from the King of Prussia Mall in full view of her children, or patrons like Audrey’s purchaser, who ends up releasing her and killing himself. Who you gonna call? Alex Cross, of course. Even though he still hasn’t finished the Agency’s training course, all the higher-ups he runs into, from hardcases who trust him to lickspittles seething with envy, have obviously read his dossier (Four Blind Mice, 2002, etc.), and they know the new guy is “close to psychic,” a “one-man flying squad” who’s already a legend, “like Clarice Starling in the movies.” It’s lucky that Cross’s reputation precedes him, because his fond creator doesn’t give him much to do here but chase suspects identified by obliging tipsters and worry about his family (Alex Jr.’s mother, alarmed at Cross’s dangerous job, is suing for custody) while the Wolf and his cronies—Sterling, Mr. Potter, the Art Director, Sphinx, and the Marvel—kidnap more dishy women (and the occasional gay man) and kill everybody who gets in their way, and quite a few poor souls who don’t.

As in summer movies, a triple dose of violence conceals the absence of real menace when neither victims nor avengers stir the slightest sympathy.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2003

ISBN: 0-316-60290-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2003

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