A serious page-turner that would have been even better if it had ended a hundred pages earlier.

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A country singer/songwriter who’s getting unwelcome attention from a devoted fan provides kinesic specialist Kathryn Dance, of the California Bureau of Investigation, with her third extra-twisty case.

Edwin Sharp really likes Kayleigh Towne. Since receiving the computer-generated email thanking him for his interest in her, he’s written back 50 times, effortlessly dodging the attempts of her protective staff to throw him off her scent. He knows everything about her and her entourage—her father and mentor, Bishop Towne; her assistant, Alicia Sessions; her producer, Barry Zeigler; and her chief roadie Bobby Prescott—so of course he’s on hand, all courtesy and insinuating smiles, when she returns to her hometown of Fresno for a concert. Kayleigh’s old friend Kathryn Dance (Roadside Crosses, 2009, etc.), who also happens to be on hand, can’t read Edwin’s body language: He’s either completely honest or completely delusional. But she can’t resist elbowing her way into the investigation bullheaded sheriff’s deputy P.K. Madigan launches when a heavy lighting fixture just happens to brain Bobby late one night. Kathryn soon sets Madigan straight about what happened to that errant light and how to conduct a proper interrogation. In the absence of any hard evidence against Edwin, however, the sheriff’s office has to let him go, and the violence escalates. Fans of Deaver’s celebrated sleuthing marathons will wait with bated breath as this onion is peeled to disclose multiple layers of deception, betrayal and triple crosses. This time, though, the surprises, driven by Deaver’s constant determination to outdo himself, seem both over-galvanized and uninspired. Deaver has to call in his main man, quadriplegic criminalist Lincoln Rhyme (The Burning Wire, 2010, etc.), to run the forensics that yield a crucial clue. The bevy of criminals working independently and at serious cross-purposes is not to be believed. And the ending is his most conventional in years.

A serious page-turner that would have been even better if it had ended a hundred pages earlier.

Pub Date: June 12, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4391-5637-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2012

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Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

ONE GOOD DEED

Thriller writer Baldacci (A Minute to Midnight, 2019, etc.) launches a new detective series starring World War II combat vet Aloysius Archer.

In 1949, Archer is paroled from Carderock Prison (he was innocent) and must report regularly to his parole officer, Ernestine Crabtree (she’s “damn fine-looking”). Parole terms forbid his visiting bars or loose women, which could become a problem. Trouble starts when businessman Hank Pittleman offers Archer $100 to recover a ’47 Cadillac that’s collateral for a debt owed by Lucas Tuttle, who readily agrees he owes the money. But Tuttle wants his daughter Jackie back—she’s Pittleman’s girlfriend, and she won’t return to Daddy. Archer finds the car, but it’s been torched. With no collateral to collect, he may have to return his hundred bucks. Meanwhile, Crabtree gets Archer the only job available, butchering hogs at the slaughterhouse. He’d killed plenty of men in combat, and now he needs peace. The Pittleman job doesn’t provide that peace, but at least it doesn’t involve bashing hogs’ brains in. People wind up dead and Archer becomes a suspect. So he noses around and shows that he might have the chops to be a good private investigator, a shamus. This is an era when gals have gams, guys say dang and keep extra Lucky Strikes in their hatbands, and a Lady Liberty half-dollar buys a good meal. The dialogue has a '40s noir feel: “And don’t trust nobody.…I don’t care how damn pretty they are.” There’s adult entertainment at the Cat’s Meow, cheap grub at the Checkered Past, and just enough clichés to prove that no one’s highfalutin. Readers will like Archer. He’s a talented man who enjoys detective stories, won’t keep ill-gotten gains, and respects women. All signs suggest a sequel where he hangs out a shamus shingle.

Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5387-5056-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2019

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Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

CROOKED RIVER

FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast finds evil afoot in his latest action-filled adventure (Verses for the Dead, 2018, etc.).

Imagine Florida beachcombers’ shock when they discover a shoe with a severed foot inside. Soon they see dozens more feet, all in identical shoes, bobbing toward the beach. Police and FBI ultimately count more than a hundred of them washing up on Sanibel and Captiva Islands' tranquil shores. Pendergast teams up with the junior Special Agent Armstrong Coldmoon to investigate this strange phenomenon. Oceanographers use a supercomputer to analyze Gulf currents and attempt to determine where the feet entered the ocean. Were they dumped off a ship or an island? Does each one represent a homicide? Analysts examine chemical residues and pollen, even the angle of each foot’s amputation, but the puzzle defies all explanation. Attention focuses on Cuba, where “something terrible was happening” in front of a coastal prison, and on China, the apparent source of the shoes. The clever plot is “a most baffling case indeed” for the brilliant Pendergast, but it’s the type of problem he thrives on. He’s hardly a stereotypical FBI agent, given for example his lemon-colored silk suit, his Panama hat, and his legendary insistence on working alone—until now. Pendergast rarely blinks—perhaps, someone surmises, he’s part reptile. But equally odd is Constance Greene, his “extraordinarily beautiful,” smart, and sarcastic young “ward” who has “eyes that had seen everything and, as a result, were surprised by nothing.” Coldmoon is more down to earth: part Lakota, part Italian, and “every inch a Fed.” Add in murderous drug dealers, an intrepid newspaper reporter, coyotes crossing the U.S.–Mexico border, and a pissed-off wannabe graphic novelist, and you have a thoroughly entertaining cast of characters. There is plenty of suspense, and the action gets bloody.

Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4725-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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