Fans savvy enough to ignore the ill-advised extras and keep their eyes on the duel between Rhyme and Unsub 40 will be...

THE STEEL KISS

The latest of Lincoln Rhyme’s fiendishly inventive antagonists is a killer who rails against rampant consumerism online, then hacks into the Internet of Things to murder New Yorkers who’ve grown too attached to their computer-driven toys.

Following a spotting of the perp dubbed Unsub 40 in a crowded shopping center, the NYPD’s Amelia Sachs is at the point of apprehending him when a calamitous escalator accident claims her attention and bystander Greg Frommer’s life. Unsub 40 escapes to plot further sabotage of the microchips that regulate the behavior of common household and industrial devices that might otherwise turn nightmarishly lethal—though he’d be even happier with the kind of hands-on violence that allowed him to swing a ball-peen hammer or wield a razor-sharp saw. Amelia directs Frommer’s destitute widow, Sandy, to attorney Evers Whitmore and quadriplegic criminalist Lincoln Rhyme (The Skin Collector, 2014, etc.), who’s now left criminal investigation to teach forensics and concentrate on civil cases, for their help in preparing a liability lawsuit against—well, against anyone they can find with plausible liability and substantial assets. For a while, it looks as if Amelia and Rhyme, her sometime lover, will be competing for expert help and resources. But their two cases predictably join together, freeing them to focus together on what they do best: turning over every clod of dirt in the Big Apple in search of Unsub 40, who continues, through a combination of cunning and uncanny good luck, to elude them. Deaver, evidently worried that he hasn’t provided a generous enough banquet of felonies, interleaves a couple of complementary cases for Rhyme and Amelia’s associates, but these are both subpar and distracting, though they do allow another of his patented multistage, 60-page denouements, though this time with gradually diminishing returns.

Fans savvy enough to ignore the ill-advised extras and keep their eyes on the duel between Rhyme and Unsub 40 will be treated to all the usual thrills, which are worth every breathless minute.

Pub Date: March 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4555-3634-4

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Sure to be a bestseller, but the guy’s phoning it in.

THE CAMEL CLUB

A lukewarm would-be potboiler of uninvolving intrigue about a kooky quartet of conspiracy theorists—one by the name of “Oliver Stone”—who witness the murder of a federal agent.

Almost 8,000 Americans have died in attacks on U.S. soil. Rocket-propelled grenades have pierced the White House, there’s been another prison fiasco in Afghanistan, a dozen soldiers are dying every day and the war has opened a new front on the Syrian border. Thus the author’s bleak imagining of the near future. Throughout, Baldacci (Hour Game, 2004, etc.) drops reliable twists, revealing the federal agent murder to be—surprise—a minuscule piece of a much bigger plot involving snipers, nukes, a presidential kidnapping and an even gloomier vision of the future. Baldacci is not a particularly graceful writer, e.g., “Like all Secret Service agents, his suits were designed a little big in the chest, to disguise the bulge of the weapon.” Worse is the author’s chronic inability to draw convincing characters. Scooby-Doo had villains more complicated than these; distinctive quirks of the characters, such as one wearing 19th-century clothing, make them only mildly interesting. Baldacci himself seems only partly engaged in the task here. He writes as if he imagines his typical reader to be a business traveler staring down a long layover.

Sure to be a bestseller, but the guy’s phoning it in.

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2005

ISBN: 0-446-57738-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2005

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