When you’ve published more than 200 spy novels, as de Villiers (1929-2013) did, some are bound to be unnervingly prescient....



A guileless would-be terrorist looking to buy a missile stirs up a hornet’s nest of Russian and American agents, each working his own dangerous angle.

Ever since a misdirected American drone wiped out most of his family, Parviz Amritzar, a naturalized American citizen born in Pakistan, has thirsted for revenge. Now his online research, whipped up by a local imam, has led him to a plan: he’ll get hold of an Igla-5 missile and shoot down Air Force One. Money is no object to Amritzar, whose wholesale carpet business has made him wealthy, but geopolitics is. The Igla-5 is manufactured in Russia, and the Russians aren’t eager to sell any of the missiles to a freelancer. But FBI assistant director Leslie Bryant, head of the Vanguard counterterrorist unit, is eager to pretend to partner with Amritzar long enough to get evidence against him that’ll lock him up forever; Bruce Hathaway, operations director of the Moscow FBI, is willing to ask Col. Sergei Tretyakov, of the FSB, to supply him with an Igla-5 to dangle in front of Amritzar; and spymaster Rem Tolkachev, briefed on this highly unusual transaction, sees no reason why he shouldn’t take advantage of it to set a trap for Hathaway so that he can be arrested and duly exchanged for Viktor Bout, an arms merchant imprisoned in the U.S. With so many players playing so many different games, there’s scarcely room for freelance CIA agent Malko Linge (Revenge of the Kremlin, 2015, etc.), but he manages to shake up the playing field, bed the best-looking women, kill the underlings most in need of killing, and save the world.

When you’ve published more than 200 spy novels, as de Villiers (1929-2013) did, some are bound to be unnervingly prescient. This one, which reads like a retro parody of James Bond (the high-tech weaponry! the double-crosses! the garter belts!), won’t cost you a single night’s sleep.

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8041-6939-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard

Review Posted Online: July 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.


A woman accused of shooting her husband six times in the face refuses to speak.

"Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband. They had been married for seven years. They were both artists—Alicia was a painter, and Gabriel was a well-known fashion photographer." Michaelides' debut is narrated in the voice of psychotherapist Theo Faber, who applies for a job at the institution where Alicia is incarcerated because he's fascinated with her case and believes he will be able to get her to talk. The narration of the increasingly unrealistic events that follow is interwoven with excerpts from Alicia's diary. Ah, yes, the old interwoven diary trick. When you read Alicia's diary you'll conclude the woman could well have been a novelist instead of a painter because it contains page after page of detailed dialogue, scenes, and conversations quite unlike those in any journal you've ever seen. " 'What's the matter?' 'I can't talk about it on the phone, I need to see you.' 'It's just—I'm not sure I can make it up to Cambridge at the minute.' 'I'll come to you. This afternoon. Okay?' Something in Paul's voice made me agree without thinking about it. He sounded desperate. 'Okay. Are you sure you can't tell me about it now?' 'I'll see you later.' Paul hung up." Wouldn't all this appear in a diary as "Paul wouldn't tell me what was wrong"? An even more improbable entry is the one that pins the tail on the killer. While much of the book is clumsy, contrived, and silly, it is while reading passages of the diary that one may actually find oneself laughing out loud.

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30169-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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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. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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