A ton of coincidences and a dry, journalistic approach to fiction render this spy novel no threat to Ian Fleming’s legacy.

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THE MADMEN OF BENGHAZI

Best-selling French novelist de Villiers, who died in 2013, wrote more than 200 books about suave Austrian spy Malko Linge; this is the first to be translated into English in decades.

Linge, who comes from the Austrian nobility, is a freelance spy for the CIA; he's the go-to guy when the target is gorgeous and needs wooing. This time he’s working for the Company's station chief in Cairo, trying to secure top-level intelligence on a man the Americans hope to deposit on the Libyan throne. A wealthy playboy, Ibrahim al-Senussi has been seduced by the idea of returning to his family’s ancestral stomping grounds and running the country. He takes his gorgeous girlfriend, a model named Cynthia Mulligan, with him to Cairo for a series of meetings with men who may or may not be on his side. While terrorists plot to kill the would-be king, Linge romances his blonde bombshell of a girlfriend to help figure out what he's up to, while trying to stay alive in a rapidly evolving political climate that heats up with the fall of the notorious Libyan dictator. The author was a journalist, and his intimate knowledge of regional geopolitics gives this book a ripped-from-the-headlines feel; the plot, however, is pedestrian. Linge, brought in because he is supposedly an expert at romancing women, tends to twiddle his thumbs a lot. And the “master spy” doesn’t seem very competent: At one point he and his fellow agents search for a known terrorist in the terrorist’s homeland by stopping at gas stations and asking if anyone knows where he lives.

A ton of coincidences and a dry, journalistic approach to fiction render this spy novel no threat to Ian Fleming’s legacy.

Pub Date: Aug. 5, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8041-6931-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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

THE SILENT PATIENT

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.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

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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