Improbable, sure, and complicated enough to try the reader’s patience at points. Still, as we’ve come to expect from...



Planet of the Apes meets Rocky—or maybe The Big Bang Theory.

Who knew that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the government think tank, had its own elite military force, as if Big Bang's Dr. Sheldon Cooper were adept with an Uzi? That’s the conceit behind Rollins’ (The Sixth Extinction, 2014, etc.) pulse-quickening Sigma Force series, though his nerds, “former Special Forces soldiers who had been retrained in various scientific disciplines,” are tough guys one and all, even the women. And, oh, the women: James Bond himself would blush at the sight of an extra-perceptive assassin, her perspicacity “honed from her years as an assassin for hire,” shedding a towel for queen and country—or maybe for party and politburo. Rollins commences from the straight-from-the-headlines notion that Neanderthals mated with some other hominid type to produce extra-bright kids, the “hybrid vigor” that evolutionary biologists lecture about. Locate some bones, throw religion into the mix, and you have a doctrine-shaking new view of Adam and Eve. Throw in Athanasius Kircher, the great 17th-century Jesuit scholar so beloved of Umberto Eco, and you’ve got your Da Vinci Code–ish intellectual backdrop. Throw Chinese mad scientists, spies and counterspies, and monkeys and half-monkeys—half-monkeys?—into the narrative Cuisinart, and you’ve gone maybe a thread too far in a complex storyline. But let Rollins describe just one subthread: “The plan had been to kidnap her from Leipzig before she left Germany. With both sisters in hand, she could have leveraged the one against the other to gain their respective cooperation. Furthermore, that lapse in intelligence required accelerating their plans to raid the U.S. primate lab.” Got all that? If it’s conjuring visions of Jay and Silent Bob instead of Sly Stallone, then no worries: it gets more hairy-chested as it goes along, and not least because supersmart silverbacks and human hybrids come to figure in the yarn.

Improbable, sure, and complicated enough to try the reader’s patience at points. Still, as we’ve come to expect from Rollins, an altogether satisfying techno-thriller.

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-238164-4

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 8, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed...

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller


Trying his final case at 85, celebrated criminal defense lawyer Sandy Stern defends a Nobel-winning doctor and longtime friend whose cancer wonder drug saved Stern's life but subsequently led to the deaths of others.

Federal prosecutors are charging the eminent doctor, Kiril Pafko, with murder, fraud, and insider trading. An Argentine émigré like Stern, Pafko is no angel. His counselor is certain he sold stock in the company that produced the drug, g-Livia, before users' deaths were reported. The 78-year-old Nobelist is a serial adulterer whose former and current lovers have strong ties to the case. Working for one final time alongside his daughter and proficient legal partner, Marta, who has announced she will close the firm and retire along with her father following the case, Stern must deal not only with "senior moments" before Chief Judge Sonya "Sonny" Klonsky, but also his physical frailty. While taking a deep dive into the ups and downs of a complicated big-time trial, Turow (Testimony, 2017, etc.) crafts a love letter to his profession through his elegiac appreciation of Stern, who has appeared in all his Kindle County novels. The grandly mannered attorney (his favorite response is "Just so") has dedicated himself to the law at great personal cost. But had he not spent so much of his life inside courtrooms, "He never would have known himself." With its bland prosecutors, frequent focus on technical details like "double-blind clinical trials," and lack of real surprises, the novel likely will disappoint some fans of legal thrillers. But this smoothly efficient book gains timely depth through its discussion of thorny moral issues raised by a drug that can extend a cancer sufferer's life expectancy at the risk of suddenly ending it.

A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed Innocent.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4813-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.


A woman accused of shooting her husband six times in the face refuses to speak.

"Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband. They had been married for seven years. They were both artists—Alicia was a painter, and Gabriel was a well-known fashion photographer." Michaelides' debut is narrated in the voice of psychotherapist Theo Faber, who applies for a job at the institution where Alicia is incarcerated because he's fascinated with her case and believes he will be able to get her to talk. The narration of the increasingly unrealistic events that follow is interwoven with excerpts from Alicia's diary. Ah, yes, the old interwoven diary trick. When you read Alicia's diary you'll conclude the woman could well have been a novelist instead of a painter because it contains page after page of detailed dialogue, scenes, and conversations quite unlike those in any journal you've ever seen. " 'What's the matter?' 'I can't talk about it on the phone, I need to see you.' 'It's just—I'm not sure I can make it up to Cambridge at the minute.' 'I'll come to you. This afternoon. Okay?' Something in Paul's voice made me agree without thinking about it. He sounded desperate. 'Okay. Are you sure you can't tell me about it now?' 'I'll see you later.' Paul hung up." Wouldn't all this appear in a diary as "Paul wouldn't tell me what was wrong"? An even more improbable entry is the one that pins the tail on the killer. While much of the book is clumsy, contrived, and silly, it is while reading passages of the diary that one may actually find oneself laughing out loud.

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30169-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

Did you like this book?