The world survives, but will boy get girl? Or girl get boy?

A DEVIL IS WAITING

Even the veteran novelist doesn’t seem thrilled with this one.

Times of global unease provide plenty of fictional fodder for both fans and authors of international thrillers. While the latest from the bestselling Higgins (The Judas Gate, 2011, etc.) encompasses car bombing and assassination attempts, conspiracies involving members of the IRA and the Taliban and an irresistibly gorgeous heroine who happens to be both a millionaire and an accomplished killer, it suffers from a curious lack of narrative momentum, stilted dialogue and implausibility even within the fictional world it inhabits. Britain is the primary setting for the British author who has more than 60 novels under his belt, though the action propels the narrative from New York to Afghanistan, as a team of British, American, French and Muslim confederates attempt to foil a plot that may involve the assassination of the president. Or revenge for the death of Osama bin Laden. Or something. The central characters within the “Prime Minister’s private army” remain Sean Dillon and Daniel Holley, under the command of General Charles Ferguson. Fans of the series will remember that both Dillon and Holley were both previously involved with the IRA, and that the latter once almost killed the former, but by now they’ve become close friends and comrades, their devotion to the British Empire unquestioned. Providing a romantic twist is the ravishing, redheaded Sara Gideon, a Jewish war hero and undercover intelligence officer enlisted by Ferguson’s team. Everyone assumes that Holley will try to seduce her, though she spends much of the novel trying to seduce him. As has become his unfortunate tendency, Higgins attempts to advance the plot through dialogue that one can’t imagine anyone actually saying—e.g., “As you two well know, several dissident groups, all IRA in one way or another, have raised their ugly heads once again.” And “International terrorism is the scourge of our times, Mr. President, powered by fanatics who insist on extreme views. It’s like a cancer that needs to be cut out to stop it spreading.”

The world survives, but will boy get girl? Or girl get boy?

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-399-15809-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2011

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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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Brown’s ear for Texas dialect and her earnest characterizations of cynical lawmen with stout hearts make for an enjoyable...

TOUGH CUSTOMER

A manhunt for a homicidal stalker reunites an ex-cop and his long-lost daughter, in Brown’s latest thriller (Rainwater, 2009).

Private eye Dodge Hanley, who left the Houston police for Atlanta years before, is summoned back to Texas by his long-ago flame Caroline King, now a successful realtor. Caroline wants Dodge, who once rescued her from an abusive fiancé, to lend his sleuthing skills to find Oren Starks, the man who burst in on her daughter Berry and Berry’s co-worker Ben at Caroline’s lake house near the small town of Merritt. Shooting and wounding Ben, Oren fled, but not before vowing to murder Berry. A dismissed co-worker at the Houston marketing firm where Berry and Ben work, Oren was unhinged by his thwarted efforts to woo Berry and another colleague, Sally Buckland. Dodge (who, unbeknownst to Berry, is her father) and local deputy Ski Nyland join forces to track Oren down. Ski’s call to Sally finds her strangely reluctant to corroborate her previous claim of sexual harassment against Oren, perhaps because Oren has a gun to her head during the call. Despite a leg injury sustained at Caroline’s house, Oren confounds pursuers by somehow managing to be in several places at once. He breaks into a Merritt motel room, fatally wounding a teenager who surprises him there. Sally’s body is found hanging in the closet of Berry’s Houston home. Oren takes an elderly couple hostage in a campground, and kills again before disappearing into the Big Thicket, a treacherous, swampy national park. Brown’s trademark romance spiced with raunch serves her well as she orchestrates two parallel lust stories: Caroline’s and Dodge’s passionate but brief encounter in 1978, and the present frisson between Berry and Dodge’s younger doppelgänger, hard-boiled cop Ski. The narrative, slowed by too many talky scenes and descriptive filler, eventually rewards readers’ patience with a bang-up surprise ending. 

Brown’s ear for Texas dialect and her earnest characterizations of cynical lawmen with stout hearts make for an enjoyable summer read.

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4165-6310-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2010

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