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ZONA ROMANTICA

An entertaining mystery with a vibrant setting.

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
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A diplomat barely has time to unpack in a beautiful Mexican city when she finds herself involved in what looks like a high-profile kidnapping in this novel.

Amanda Pennyworth has arrived in Puerto Vallarta to take charge of the American Consular Service, her fourth posting. She is already becoming disenchanted with her career, but Puerto Vallarta should be a safe and pleasant place to spend a few years. There is a large American expatriate community with a literary bent, an attraction because Amanda has been working desultorily on a novel over the years. The star of that community is Joshua Talbot, whose first novel, many years ago, rocked the literary establishment on its heels, but—old story—he has not produced much since. That debut novel was a lodestar in Amanda’s childhood, and now Talbot has shown an interest in her, befriended her. Then, when he is supposed to meet her for dinner, he doesn’t show up. Hours turn into days, and the fear grows that he is hurt somewhere in the mountains backing the town or, worse, has been kidnapped. Sure enough, ransom notes show up on Amanda’s doorstep. Her best ally is Romero Morelos of the Tourist Police, a very solid guy (and single and sort of hunky). Will Amanda and Romero be able to save Talbot? Gilbert is an experienced and capable writer, and Amanda is a well-drawn and intriguing character. Readers will get a keen sense of the daily (and nightly) life in the Zona Romantica (a real area in Puerto Vallarta) and of the undercurrents of Mexican politics, especially the uneasy and unequal relationship between the local police and the arrogant federales. While not in Hammett’s or Chandler’s league, this enjoyable tale delivers the requisite red herrings while following the trail of the crime. But in the end, one of those herrings turns out not to be red at all. Who knew? Well, some readers will probably figure that out and even guess a key angle. The final plot twist has in fact appeared more than once in real life.

An entertaining mystery with a vibrant setting.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68114-521-1

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Anaphora Literary Press

Review Posted Online: April 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

THE ATLAS MANEUVER

Speculators who haven’t been put off by bitcoin’s recent crash will enjoy this walk—well, run—on the wild side.

Cotton Malone, who just can’t stay retired from international intrigue, joins the mad dance of competitors for a fortune in bitcoin.

So many people have forgotten about the horde of gold the retreating Japanese hid on Luzon Island in the Philippines that it’s not at all clear who has legal title to it. That’s perfect for Robert Citrone, the retired CIA overseer of the Black Eagle Trust, which has used the gold to fund covert operations around the world. Just as Derrick Koger, the European station chief for the CIA, is pulling Malone away from his Copenhagen bookstore to help him investigate possible misdeeds swirling around Luxembourg’s Bank of St. George and its ruthless chief operating officer, Catherine Gledhill, other interested parties turn up in often surprising connections. Freelance assassin Kyra Lhota executes Armenian oligarch Samvel Yerevan and moves on to her next target. Malone’s sometime lover Cassiopeia Vitt is snatched by high-ranking Japanese security chief Aiko Ejima. His former lover Suzy Baldwin resurfaces as Kelly Austin, BSG’s director of special technology, who’s concealing secrets from Malone and the rest of the world. They’re all on the trail of a fabulous cache of bitcoin that in the absence of any legal records of ownership will belong, like the Luzon gold, to anyone who can track it down and grab it. The grandly scaled complications that follow feature countless broken alliances and the deaths of a fearsome number of nonfranchise characters. An extended author’s note explains what’s historically accurate (quite a bit, as it turns out) and what’s fabricated (quite a bit more).

Speculators who haven’t been put off by bitcoin’s recent crash will enjoy this walk—well, run—on the wild side.

Pub Date: Feb. 20, 2024

ISBN: 9781538721032

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2024

TOM CLANCY FLASH POINT

A well-turned, if predictable, installment in the popular series.

With the United States the “closest [it’s] been to war” in a lifetime, intelligence operative Jack Ryan Jr. faces stiff odds in trying to avert disaster with China.

Trouble with China begins brewing (yet again in the Clancy books) with the rendition of a Chinese scientist and the killing of his American brother, a specialist in machine learning. With a sniper attack on the German outpost of The Campus, Ryan’s “off-the-books” agency, and the downing of an American plane over the South China Sea, U.S. efforts to recover a Chinese undersea glider capable of detecting a $3 billion American stealth submarine are in jeopardy. Things look especially grim with the capture of crash survivor John Clark, Ryan’s boss and a close compadre of his father, President Jack Ryan Sr. With Ryan Sr. still shaken by the abduction of his wife a year ago and Ryan Jr. doubtful of his abilities as a team leader, it's up to intelligence director Mary Pat Foley to calm the waters with her expertise and strong will. One possible outcome is a Chinese attack on Taiwan. In Bentley’s third outing in the series, it takes a while to get past cookie cutter stuff: Many pages go by before the reader knows what all the tense language, chase scenes, and international travel are about. But the book's cool, checkerboard efficiency eventually takes hold. And the streaks of vulnerability that run through the Ryans impart a human dimension that most such thrillers lack. Bentley also takes pains to distinguish the novel from fake fiction: “Unlike in the movies, getting struck by a rifle round moving at several thousand feet per second was not insignificant.”

A well-turned, if predictable, installment in the popular series.

Pub Date: May 23, 2023

ISBN: 9780593422786

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2023

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