The plotting is delectably tricky, but the character of Dark requires more shading before he returns for the promised next...

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Journalist Duns debuts with a thriller offering more spins than a Bolshoi gala, as an MI6 agent combs Nigeria for a lost love who can untangle a labyrinthine scheme devised during World War II.

In 1969, Paul Dark is summoned by his boss to discuss a Soviet agent, now in Nigeria. Eager to defect, the Russian has promised he’ll finger a British agent turned by Moscow in 1945. Fearing a scandal, the Chief asks Dark to take the case, which involves a nurse who may have blown the cover on Dark’s father when he undertook an operation in Germany during the war. Dark listens, then pulls a Luger and dispatches the Chief. Flashbacks reveal that as the war ended Dark’s father enlisted him in an operation to kill German SS officers. Pursuing one of them, Dark is stabbed. He recuperates at a hospital where he learns his father has abandoned him, leaving a letter telling him to return to England. Dark falls hard for a woman posing as a nurse who is really a Soviet agent. She tries, unsuccessfully, to turn him for the Russians. Then Dark finds his father, shot in the head. Since the nurse may be the same nurse the chief mentioned, Dark must now find her to unravel the case. Once Dark lands in Nigeria, a puzzle promising complexities worthy of le Carré becomes a colorless tale. Like many a noir hero, Dark is drawn to a mysterious woman in a bar. In this case she is Isabelle Dumont, a writer for Agence France-Presse. He trusts her only after he strip-searches her at gunpoint, then makes love to her. The two embark on a trek involving capture, escape and an assassination plot. Eventually Dark brings MI6 the information they need. His superiors spin matters into one final, dry twist that mocks his sense of being a free agent.

The plotting is delectably tricky, but the character of Dark requires more shading before he returns for the promised next episode.

Pub Date: July 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-670-02101-7

Page Count: 344

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2009

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

THE SILENT PATIENT

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

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