Another winner from a top-tier thriller writer.

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TELL NO LIES

A San Francisco silver spoon heir trying to do good becomes entangled in a serial murder case in Hurwitz’s (The Survivor, 2012, etc.) latest thriller.

Daniel Brasher, last heir to a family fortune that can be traced back to the Union Pacific’s golden spike, left the private investment business to become a counselor for violent offenders. The only child of widowed Evelyn Brasher, a community mover and shaker more powerful and feared than appreciated and respected, Brasher strayed further by marrying Cristina, a Hispanic community organizer. Money, an Audi, a gentrified three-story in Pacific Heights mean the couple lives well while doing good, the only pothole on the road to happily-ever-after being Cristina’s cancer. Then Brasher discovers an anonymous murder threat in his work mailbox. The threat, however, is directed at another person. Soon, other murder threats, and bodies, accumulate. Every corpse is left with "knife slits leaking blood below either eye." The Tearmaker’s notes always demand that victims "admit what you’ve done." Hurwitz is brilliant with characterization. Evelyn and Cristina are spark-striking opposites. Leo Rizk, shadowy, silent hired bodyguard, has a dark history revealed in strobe flashes. Theresa Dooley, hard-charging young African-American inspector, leads the investigation. And Martin, A-Dre, Big Mac, Martin, Lil and Xochitl, the sextet that makes up Brasher’s counsel group of violent offenders, are broken and brave but worthy suspects all. Hurwitz’s writing is more lyrical than noir—one chapter delineates San Francisco perfectly—with occasional literary flashes—"watched the sunbeams' relentless creep along the floorboards, ushering in the threats of a new day)." Hurwitz is no slouch at plotting either, dragging Brasher from one murder scene to another, either consulting with Dooley or giving in to his own curiosity—or guilt. Every suspect seems legitimate, but then the narrative makes a hard U-turn and aims The Tearmaker at Brasher and his wife only to stumble beyond a satisfying conclusion and tack on the trite tying up of one minor narrative thread.

Another winner from a top-tier thriller writer.

Pub Date: Aug. 20, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-62552-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2013

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Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

ONE GOOD DEED

Thriller writer Baldacci (A Minute to Midnight, 2019, etc.) launches a new detective series starring World War II combat vet Aloysius Archer.

In 1949, Archer is paroled from Carderock Prison (he was innocent) and must report regularly to his parole officer, Ernestine Crabtree (she’s “damn fine-looking”). Parole terms forbid his visiting bars or loose women, which could become a problem. Trouble starts when businessman Hank Pittleman offers Archer $100 to recover a ’47 Cadillac that’s collateral for a debt owed by Lucas Tuttle, who readily agrees he owes the money. But Tuttle wants his daughter Jackie back—she’s Pittleman’s girlfriend, and she won’t return to Daddy. Archer finds the car, but it’s been torched. With no collateral to collect, he may have to return his hundred bucks. Meanwhile, Crabtree gets Archer the only job available, butchering hogs at the slaughterhouse. He’d killed plenty of men in combat, and now he needs peace. The Pittleman job doesn’t provide that peace, but at least it doesn’t involve bashing hogs’ brains in. People wind up dead and Archer becomes a suspect. So he noses around and shows that he might have the chops to be a good private investigator, a shamus. This is an era when gals have gams, guys say dang and keep extra Lucky Strikes in their hatbands, and a Lady Liberty half-dollar buys a good meal. The dialogue has a '40s noir feel: “And don’t trust nobody.…I don’t care how damn pretty they are.” There’s adult entertainment at the Cat’s Meow, cheap grub at the Checkered Past, and just enough clichés to prove that no one’s highfalutin. Readers will like Archer. He’s a talented man who enjoys detective stories, won’t keep ill-gotten gains, and respects women. All signs suggest a sequel where he hangs out a shamus shingle.

Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5387-5056-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2019

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Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

CROOKED RIVER

FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast finds evil afoot in his latest action-filled adventure (Verses for the Dead, 2018, etc.).

Imagine Florida beachcombers’ shock when they discover a shoe with a severed foot inside. Soon they see dozens more feet, all in identical shoes, bobbing toward the beach. Police and FBI ultimately count more than a hundred of them washing up on Sanibel and Captiva Islands' tranquil shores. Pendergast teams up with the junior Special Agent Armstrong Coldmoon to investigate this strange phenomenon. Oceanographers use a supercomputer to analyze Gulf currents and attempt to determine where the feet entered the ocean. Were they dumped off a ship or an island? Does each one represent a homicide? Analysts examine chemical residues and pollen, even the angle of each foot’s amputation, but the puzzle defies all explanation. Attention focuses on Cuba, where “something terrible was happening” in front of a coastal prison, and on China, the apparent source of the shoes. The clever plot is “a most baffling case indeed” for the brilliant Pendergast, but it’s the type of problem he thrives on. He’s hardly a stereotypical FBI agent, given for example his lemon-colored silk suit, his Panama hat, and his legendary insistence on working alone—until now. Pendergast rarely blinks—perhaps, someone surmises, he’s part reptile. But equally odd is Constance Greene, his “extraordinarily beautiful,” smart, and sarcastic young “ward” who has “eyes that had seen everything and, as a result, were surprised by nothing.” Coldmoon is more down to earth: part Lakota, part Italian, and “every inch a Fed.” Add in murderous drug dealers, an intrepid newspaper reporter, coyotes crossing the U.S.–Mexico border, and a pissed-off wannabe graphic novelist, and you have a thoroughly entertaining cast of characters. There is plenty of suspense, and the action gets bloody.

Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4725-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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