The author’s CIA background and the smart dialogue make this an entertaining tale for spy-novel enthusiasts.

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RED SPARROW

From the Red Sparrow series , Vol. 1

Matthews’ first novel, a globe-trotting spy thriller, features enough action to satisfy even the most demanding of adrenaline junkies.

CIA field operative Nate Nash acts as the control officer for an invaluable Russian asset placed high up in Putin’s administration. Nate chose to become a career spy despite pressure from his well-connected attorney father and two brothers to knuckle down and join the family business. Now, instead of filing briefs and golfing on weekends, he’s playing tag with top-notch Russian intelligence teams out to expose Nate’s source, known by the code name MARBLE. Meanwhile, another Russian, a beautiful ballerina named Dominika, raised by parents disenchanted with Russian politics but smart enough to realize that such an attitude could prove deadly to their only child, has been forced out of ballet school following an incident of sabotage. While contemplating her grim future, Dominika is approached by her loathsome uncle and top Soviet intelligence official, Vanya Egorov, to seduce an oligarch bothersome to the current administration. When a soulless killer becomes involved in the assignment, Dominika realizes she must quickly adhere to the party line in order to survive and asks her uncle to help her join the intelligence service, which he does. Soon, Dominika and Nate are set on a collision course, and the stage is set for a cat-and-mouse game that bounces from Moscow to Helsinki to Rome to Athens, a deadly assassin at their heels. The inclusion of a recipe at each chapter’s end (for foods including chicken Kiev and kebabs), along with the not-so-subtle mentions of food wedged into the storyline, is unnecessary. This book is good and doesn’t need the gimmicks.

The author’s CIA background and the smart dialogue make this an entertaining tale for spy-novel enthusiasts.

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0612-2

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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Now that Coben’s added politics to his heady brew, expect sex and religion to join the mix.

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THE BOY FROM THE WOODS

Coben’s latest darkest-suburbs thriller sets a decidedly offbeat detective on the trail of a crime with overtones unmistakably redolent of once and future presidential elections.

Wilde is called Wilde because nobody’s known his real name from the moment a pair of hikers found him foraging for himself in Ramapo Mountain State Forest 24 years ago. Now over 40, he’s had experience as both a lost boy and a private investigator. That makes him an obvious person to help when his godson, Sweet Water High School student Matthew Crimstein, expresses concern to his grandmother, attorney Hester Crimstein, that his bullied classmate Naomi Pine has gone missing. Matthew doesn’t really want anyone to help. He doesn’t even want anyone to notice his agitation. But Hester, taking the time from her criminal defense of financial consultant Simon Greene (Run Away, 2019) to worm the details out of him, asks Wilde to lend a hand, and sure enough, Wilde, unearthing an unsavory backstory that links Naomi to bullying classmate Crash Maynard, whose TV producer father, Dash Maynard, is close friends with reality TV star–turned–presidential hopeful Rusty Eggers, finds Naomi hale and hearty. Everything’s hunky-dory for one week, and then she disappears again. And this time, so does Crash after a brief visit to Matthew in which he tearfully confesses his guilt about the bad stuff he did to Naomi. This second disappearance veers into more obviously criminal territory with the arrival of a ransom note that demands, not money, but the allegedly incriminating videotapes of Rusty Eggers that Dash and Delia Maynard have had squirreled away for 30 years. The tapes link Rusty to a forgotten and forgettable homicide and add a paranoid new ripped-from-the-headlines dimension to the author’s formidable range. Readers who can tune out all the subplots will find the kidnappers easy to spot, but Coben finds room for three climactic surprises, one of them a honey.

Now that Coben’s added politics to his heady brew, expect sex and religion to join the mix.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4814-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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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