Nearly unbearable tension. Splendid spy stuff.

TRAITOR’S KISS

A gang of disgraced British commandos infiltrates Russian territory to bring out a Navy turncoat in a tale to match the best of the mid-century spy thrillers.

The always reliable Seymour (The Unknown Soldier, 2005, etc.) has taken a reading of the temperature in Comrade Putin’s Russia, deduced the return of deep, murderous winter and risked a return to classic British form. Good call. Assembling his adventure from such road-tested parts as the return of an out-to-pasture spymaster, the brilliant but modest analyst in love with her Russian asset, a relentless state security interrogator and four disgraced commandos looking for atonement, Seymour sets his machinery in motion in Kaliningrad, that last decadent bit of the Evil Empire on the Baltic coast between Poland and Lithuania. There, where the remnants of Soviet naval ambitions lie rotting at the piers for lack of fuel and provisions, Captain Victor Archenko, trusted aide to an upwardly mobile admiral, has begun to sense that he is being watched. The double game he began four years earlier when he walked onto an English trawler with a package of military information addressed to London has come to an end. A corrupt local enforcer from the KGB’s successor agency chanced into evidence of Viktor’s unauthorized travels, and enforcers are closing in. Now Viktor is asking for redemption of Britain’s promise to extract. Unfortunately, his handler has retired, and the attention of British Intelligence has shifted from the remnants of the Soviet Union to the new war on terrorism. To the rescue comes Alice North, whose passionate attachment to the asset in Kaliningrad exceeds her loyalty to the empty suits who have replaced her old boss Rupert Mowbray, whom she alerts to the present danger. The still clever Mowbray works up a rescue plan that recalls to action four exiled and disgraced commandos with nothing to lose except, possibly, the cynical careerist reluctantly along for the ride.

Nearly unbearable tension. Splendid spy stuff.

Pub Date: April 17, 2006

ISBN: 1-58567-633-0

Page Count: 428

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2006

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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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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