Easily predictable plotting, with fun facts about MiGs, sensational in-the-cockpit realism, and the stirring flyboy spirit...

FALLOUT

Forsaking politics and legal legerdemain for standard shoot-’em-down combat thrills, flyboy-turned-lawyer Huston (Flash Point, 2000, etc.) proves he can do a tightly plotted, by-the-numbers military adventure as well as anyone.

You know those Pakistani extremists are bad boys when their leader, Air Force Major Riaz Khan, hoists a squirming underling into the air and strangles him barehanded. Having bungled an attempt to smuggle into Pakistan a cache of weapon-grade plutonium, Khan and his crew have been dosed with so much radiation that they have barely six months to live—just enough time to get an embassy official in Washington to bribe the undersecretary of defense to get them into the Navy’s TOPGUN school. Alas, TOPGUN is no longer accepting foreign pilots, but Lieutenant Luke “Stick” Henry, a former TOPGUN instructor who quit when he was blamed for an unavoidable aerial collision, is. Henry, along with TOPGUN buddies Thud, Scamp Sluf, and former Russian flyboy Vladimir “Vlad” Petkov, has leased a bunch of retired MiG fighters to start their own, for-profit flight-combat school in the Nevada desert. Henry loathes Khan on sight, but enrolls the Pakistanis because he needs the money. After a few days of training, the Pakistanis hijack four American jets and load them up with bombs. Henry and his pals hop into their MiGs but fail to stop Khan from blasting open a nuclear power plant’s spent fuel pit, spilling deadly radioactive fallout over much of southern California’s coastline. Khan escapes and Henry learns, through Vlad (who has unsavory connections with the Russian Mafia), that this was just a practice run for an attack on an Indian nuclear power plant. Vlad and Henry zoom off to India to save the day.

Easily predictable plotting, with fun facts about MiGs, sensational in-the-cockpit realism, and the stirring flyboy spirit that put Huston in the same firmament with Dean Koontz and Dale Brown.

Pub Date: July 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-688-17202-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2001

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once...

DELIVER US FROM EVIL

In Baldacci’s 19th (True Blue, 2009, etc.), boy and girl monster-hunters meet cute.

Evan Waller, aka Fadir Kuchin, aka “the Butcher of Kiev,” aka “the Ukrainian psychopath,” is one of those deep-dyed villains a certain kind of fiction can’t do without. Serving with distinction as part of the Soviet Union’s KGB, he joyfully and indiscriminately killed thousands. Now, many years later, posing as a successful businessman, he’s vacationing in Provence where, unbeknownst to him, two separate clandestine operations are being mounted by people who do not regard him with favor. Reggie Campion—28 and gorgeous—spearheads the first, an ad hoc group of monster-hunting vigilantes. Studly, tall Shaw (no first name supplied) is point guard for a rival team, shadowy enough to leave the matter of its origin ambiguous. While their respective teams reconnoiter and jockey for position, studly boy meets gorgeous girl. Monster-hunters are famous for having trust issues, but clearly these are drawn to each other in the time-honored Hollywood fashion. Shaw saves Reggie’s life. She returns the favor. The attraction deepens and heats up to the point where team-members on both sides grow unsettled by the loss of focus, singularly inopportune since, as monsters go, Waller rises to the second coming of Caligula—ample testimony furnished by a six-page, unsparingly detailed torture scene. In the end, the stalkers strike, bullets fly, screams curdle the blood, love has its innings and a monster does what a monster’s got to do.

The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once again show the stuff it’s made of.

Pub Date: April 20, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-446-56408-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Avon A/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2010

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