A storytelling machine, Jance in her 41st (Trial by Fire, 2009, etc.) is at the top of her game and just about irresistible.

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QUEEN OF THE NIGHT

Jance offers that rare—and welcome—hybrid: the suspense novel with heart.           

Jonathan Southard is one of those unhappy men whose unrequited love affair with life has caused a volatile, long-term, internal simmering. One day the mixture explodes, resulting in a crime that is both horrific and, in a sense at least, foreseeable. He shoots his wife, her dog and their two young children, construing this last as an act of mercy inasmuch as it will spare them an aftermath of humiliation and shame. Having wiped out his San Diego family, he sets off for Tucson and the home of his mother, planning to clean the slate. He’s always hated Abby Tennant, attributing to her voluminous maternal shortcomings, of which she is largely innocent. With less difficulty than Southard expected, the bodies are discovered, clues are put together, identities established and soon enough the manhunt is on, participated in by multiple police forces from several states. Among these are the elite Shadow Wolves, Indians who patrol reservation land near the Mexican border. Enter Dan Pardeey. Half Anglo, half Apache, he has a special connection to the small survivor of another of Southard’s monstrous crimes. Angelina Enos, age four, has remained alive only by virtue of being tiny enough to escape notice. Eerily, this parallels Pardee’s own long-ago experience, and when she reaches out to him he has no choice but to respond. Because he does, his life is irrevocably changed and, in a kind of chain reaction, so are the lives of a variety of other players, one way or another, for good or ill, in Jance’s absorbing cast.

A storytelling machine, Jance in her 41st (Trial by Fire, 2009, etc.) is at the top of her game and just about irresistible.

Pub Date: July 27, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-06-123924-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2010

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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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