Despite the occasional awkwardness, Leodas continually moves the story forward.

In Leodas’ thriller, Johanna Wagner and Michael Warner become the unwitting catalysts in a tense conspiracy, launched long before they were born, to gain economic and political control of the United States government.

Their story begins in 1945, with the brutal murders of seven seemingly random people in Milwaukee, Wis. By 1995, Johanna has just graduated from college, and Michael is working for a U.S. Senator. Although their lives appear to be on different trajectories, they have much in common. They’re both pampered children of wealthy parents and oblivious to the dangerous secrets of their parents’ pasts. These secrets are soon violently revealed, as is their link to each other through the powerful men who have shaped both their lives. The tension builds steadily as Leodas (A Sorority Of Angels, 2012) gradually pulls the disparate storylines together in a chilling climax full of twists and turns. As their formerly protected lives unravel, Johanna and Michael confront the deadly threats against them with surprising resourcefulness and tenacity. There’s enough foreshadowing to keep each plot twist from being a complete shock but enough intrigue to keep the pages turning. Leodas’ unusual writing style sometimes distracts. He frequently avoids the passive voice by simply deleting “is” and “was,” a technique that’s often unsuccessful: “By nightfall, Johanna tormented to the edge of control.” Other sentences appear to be carefully crafted to avoid similar writing pitfalls, resulting in nearly incomprehensible prose:  “Both forty-six years old, married upon finishing high school and enjoying excellent health except for an occasional ache in Erwin’s knees, an old football injury in high school when a speedy running back; the Glory Days of his life.” Still, the author guides the plot with a light hand to keep it believable.

Despite the occasional awkwardness, Leodas continually moves the story forward.

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-1478266891

Page Count: 382

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 17, 2012



Loyal King stans may disagree, but this is a snooze.

A much-beloved author gives a favorite recurring character her own novel.

Holly Gibney made her first appearance in print with a small role in Mr. Mercedes (2014). She played a larger role in The Outsider (2018). And she was the central character in If It Bleeds, a novella in the 2020 collection of the same name. King has said that the character “stole his heart.” Readers adore her, too. One way to look at this book is as several hundred pages of fan service. King offers a lot of callbacks to these earlier works that are undoubtedly a treat for his most loyal devotees. That these easter eggs are meaningless and even befuddling to new readers might make sense in terms of costs and benefits. King isn’t exactly an author desperate to grow his audience; pleasing the people who keep him at the top of the bestseller lists is probably a smart strategy, and this writer achieved the kind of status that whatever he writes is going to be published. Having said all that, it’s possible that even his hardcore fans might find this story a bit slow. There are also issues in terms of style. Much of the language King uses and the cultural references he drops feel a bit creaky. The word slacks occurs with distracting frequency. King uses the phrase keeping it on the down-low in a way that suggests he probably doesn’t understand how this phrase is currently used—and has been used for quite a while. But the biggest problem is that this narrative is framed as a mystery without delivering the pleasures of a mystery. The reader knows who the bad guys are from the start. This can be an effective storytelling device, but in this case, waiting for the private investigator heroine to get to where the reader is at the beginning of the story feels interminable.

Loyal King stans may disagree, but this is a snooze.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2023

ISBN: 9781668016138

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023


Lots of violent action with little payoff.

Jack Ryan Jr. is back to risk life and limb in saving a teenage girl from international killers while his father, U.S. President Jack Ryan Sr., figures out what to do with Iran’s clandestine uranium enrichment facility, hidden in a mine.

Junior, head of the secret intelligence outfit The Campus, which was functionally wiped out in Tom Clancy Flash Point (2023), is heading across Texas to a rendezvous with his fiancee, Lisanne Robertson, a one-armed former Marine and cop. He’s waylaid by the aftermath of a multi-vehicle accident that he discovers resulted from a gun attack that left a driver hanging on for life, and now puts Jack in the crosshairs of the gunmen. A tip leads him to a 4 a.m. meeting with Amanda, a single mom whose impetuous daughter, Bella, has run off with her highly undesirable boyfriend only to be abducted by the baddies. the nation’s capital, American surveillance has determined that Iran is on the cusp of nuclear armament. The only way to stop them is unleashing an unpiloted and untested super plane with massive destructive power. The book’s treatment of Iran’s “existential threat to the entire globe” as a subplot is rather curious, to say the least. You keep waiting for Bentley to connect the two stories, but that happens only superficially. Late in the book, we are told as an afterthought that Iran’s immediate threat had been “mitigated.” Unfortunately, there is no mitigation of the novel’s hackneyed prose—"The analytical portion of Jack’s brain couldn’t help but be impressed.”

Lots of violent action with little payoff.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2023

ISBN: 9780593422816

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2023

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