An entertaining mystery with a vibrant setting.

ZONA ROMANTICA

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

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A smart summer escape.

PORTRAIT OF AN UNKNOWN WOMAN

Silva’s latest Gabriel Allon novel is a bit of a throwback—in the best possible way.

One-time assassin and legendary spymaster Gabriel Allon has finally retired. After saying farewell to his friends and colleagues in Israel, he moves with his wife, Chiara, and their two young children to a piano nobile overlooking Venice’s Grand Canal. His plan is to return to the workshop where he learned to restore paintings as an employee—but only after he spends several weeks recovering from the bullet wound that left him dead for several minutes in The Cellist (2021). Of course, no one expects Gabriel to entirely withdraw from the field, and, sure enough, a call from his friend and occasional asset Julian Isherwood sends him racing around the globe on the trail of art forgers who are willing to kill to protect their extremely lucrative enterprise. Silva provides plenty of thrills and, as usual, offers a glimpse into the lifestyles of the outrageously wealthy. In the early books in this series, it was Gabriel’s work as an art restorer that set him apart from other action heroes, and his return to that world is the most rewarding part of this installment. It is true that, at this point in his storied career, Gabriel has become a nearly mythic figure. And Silva is counting on a lot of love—and willing suspension of disbelief—when Gabriel whips up four old master canvases that fool the world’s leading art experts as a lure for the syndicate selling fake paintings. That said, as Silva explains in an author’s note, the art market is rife with secrecy, subterfuge, and wishful thinking, in no small part because it is almost entirely unregulated. And, if anyone can crank out a Titian, a Tintoretto, a Gentileschi, and a Veronese in a matter of days, it’s Gabriel Allon. The author’s longtime fans may breathe a sigh of relief that this entry is relatively free of politics and the pandemic is nowhere in sight.

A smart summer escape.

Pub Date: July 19, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-283485-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Harper

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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Colorful characters and solid plotting continue to make this series a pleasure.

ROBERT LUDLUM'S THE BOURNE SACRIFICE

Jason Bourne confronts a strange and frightening enemy in the latest entry in the series created by Ludlum and written by Freeman.

Let's face it, Bourne is never going to learn the secrets of his past. In this latest episode, he reunites with Canadian journalist Abbey Laurent, who plays a key part in this fast-moving thriller. He had left her behind two years earlier because “when you're with me, you're in danger….I'm a killer.” For her part, she is known in her profession as “one of the few people who calls out the bullshit on both sides.” A woman is stabbed to death near the Potomac, and Abbey wants to know why. The killing is the work of the Pyramid, a secretive organization that ostensibly fights lies and misinformation around the world but does so with lies of its own. She asks too many questions about the murder and runs afoul of the organization, which ruins her career by planting false stories about her on social media. But worse, the Pyramid wants her dead. “It doesn't matter what's true and what’s a lie,” she’s told. In Iceland, Bourne silently awaits his prey, an evil dude named Lennon who enjoys sharing a surname with the late Beatle, so much so that he even has an evil girlfriend named Yoko. Hero and villain meet several times, each missing or simply passing up chances to kill the other, apparently because they'd rather talk than pull the trigger. As fans know, Bourne has lost all memory of his life before being shot in the head. The CIA doesn’t want him to learn of his past, which is the mystery that drives the series. Meanwhile, he’s a loner by necessity, because “nothing gets you killed faster than trust.” There are odd coincidences, such as Bourne and Abbey meeting again and the hero and the bad guy meeting again and again, but readers won’t mind. Can Abbey Laurent get her life back? Or even survive? Will she have sex with Jason Bourne?

Colorful characters and solid plotting continue to make this series a pleasure.

Pub Date: July 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-41985-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2022

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