Everywhere That Tommy Goes

After a Queens man witnesses his new friend committing murder, he faces a possible frame-up in Pollack’s debut thriller.
Tommy Sullivan avoids a severe beating from a couple of punks, thanks to Troyer Savage stepping in. Tommy hopes that Troyer can give him some pointers on fighting—and also some advice on picking up women. When he trails Troyer to an alley to watch him make his move on a female bartender named Jamie, he instead watches him cut her throat, and Tommy is left to clean up the crime scene. Tommy, fearing that cops will tie him to the murder, escapes to Cape May, New Jersey, where he spent summers as a child. There he reconnects with Aurora, the first girl he ever kissed. Troyer soon shows up, however, and before long there’s another dead body, and Aurora vanishes without a trace. Cops, meanwhile, suspect that Tommy is a killer, and are slowly closing in. Pollack tells about half the story from Tommy’s first-person point-of-view, and the rest in third-person, centered mostly on the police investigation. When Tommy admits to taking an experimental drug for recurrent migraines and mentions having blackouts, readers will begin to question Tommy’s account. Troyer, meanwhile, is a sublimely eccentric villain: He feigns an Australian lilt with Jamie and uses it throughout the story, claiming it’s genuine; and he makes shocking, surprise appearances, even turning up in the trunk of Tommy’s car. Readers will likely anticipate the outcome very early on, and the author seems to know this, but he subverts premature speculation by winding the story through strange DNA and fingerprint results and the discovery of unknown corpses, and by making Troyer particularly elusive. The book’s final act delves into Tommy’s troubled childhood as well as his experimental medication. This last section is engaging and comprehensibly brings the story to a close, but it’s also missing much of the black humor from the previous pages. The ending, however, is a definite winner.
A self-aware psychological thriller that has great fun playing with reader expectations.

Pub Date: May 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-1497524590

Page Count: 390

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2014

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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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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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