A smart, illuminating tale about important global concerns.


In this debut political novel, a former attorney and government worker tackles a new position that focuses on repairing American diplomatic relations.

Following a career at the Treasury and State Departments as well as at a Washington, D.C., law firm, Staunton “Salt” Pepper retires. He moves back to his family farm in Virginia and settles into small-town life. But Stuart Bacon, the likely choice for secretary of state for the new 2021 administration, calls Salt back to Washington. He wants Salt to be a “troubleshooter and a diplomatic relations turnaround specialist.” Many apparently view America as “xenophobic, racist…and untrustworthy,” among other things. Salt will fly to various countries and consult with respective representatives in an effort to foster multilateralism—in contrast to the United States’ typical unilateral actions. His traveling companion is CIA agent Louise Roseaux, who’s essentially his bodyguard. There indeed may be danger involved since in places like London and Berlin, the two sometimes believe someone is tailing them. Meanwhile, Salt and diplomats discuss such issues as the “Iran nuclear deal.” He hopes to convince these countries that America is willing to mend relations even if, as he speculates, it takes years. Maiwurm’s novel features pithy, informed writing. The author smoothly addresses numerous topical subjects, from Covid-19 and the bleak economy to the Black Lives Matter movement. These are generally part of the characters’ political discourse, even among the locals in Salt’s hometown. Covid-19’s incorporation into the story is especially well done. Salt recently lost his wife, Meredith, a nurse, to the virus and witnesses its lingering effects (for example, empty middle seats on flights). Despite the appealing protagonist’s middle-of-the-road political beliefs, he maps out a clear plan for improving diplomatic relations. Though Salt’s continued mourning for Meredith is convincing, his deepening relationship with Louise has little impact on the characters or the narrative.

A smart, illuminating tale about important global concerns. (acknowledgements)

Pub Date: July 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-66320-468-4

Page Count: 188

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Oct. 20, 2020

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A serviceable thriller with plenty of satisfying action.


Mitch Rapp protects the world’s richest man and faces down a psychopath in his 20th adventure.

The CIA asks Rapp to protect Nicholas Ward, the first trillionaire ever, who has big plans for improving the planet. In the coming decades, Ward’s technologies will help make Saudi oil worthless. And with Dr. David Chism, he hopes to transform health care worldwide. In a lab in Uganda, Chism is working on creating a single vaccine that could wipe out the entire coronavirus category: no Covid-19, no SARS, no colds. These damn do-gooders are unquestionably an existential threat to the general world order, and the Saudis want them gone. Ruthless U.S. President Anthony Cook is down with that. “The human race can’t absorb that many fundamental changes all at once,” he opines. So the Saudis, with secret encouragement from Cook, hire the crazed warlord Gideon Auma, aka God’s representative on Earth, to neutralize David Chism and stop the research. “Bullets can’t harm me,” Auma brags, and his followers believe him. Soon Chism’s research facility in Uganda is a pile of ashes, and Auma even sees a chance to kidnap Ward, who’d funded the lab. But Ward didn’t make a trillion dollars by just giving up when things turn ugly. President Cook is angry that Rapp is interfering, saving lives and stuff. Indeed, the first lady calls Rapp “the guy every man wants to be.” He lives in South Africa these days, but his loyalty to his homeland is steadfast. When a Saudi considers torturing the hero, he asks, “Do you know your weakness, Mitch?…It’s your unwavering belief in America.” That’s wrong, of course, because Rapp has no obvious weaknesses. Even so, he and his protectees have many powerful and capable enemies. He’s not the edgiest protagonist ever, but he’s hard to kill and easy to root for.

A serviceable thriller with plenty of satisfying action.

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-9821-6488-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Emily Bestler/Atria

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2021

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A smart summer escape.


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/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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