The smart, suspenseful cat-and-mouse game will remind some readers of Erik Skjoldbjærg’s 1997 film Insomnia—and that’s high...

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THE SNOWMAN

Erica Jong meets Stephen King meets, yes, Stieg Larsson in this superb thriller, the eighth by Norwegian mystery writer Nesbø.

Oslo detective Harry Hole returns, world-weary as ever, to puzzle out some very strange, and very discomfiting, events. The opening is very Scandinavian indeed: two people not married to each other are experiencing some extracurricular bliss—the Erica Jong part—when one notices that they’re being watched, whereupon the woman’s kid, waiting in a car in the wintry outside—the Scandinavian part—informs his mom, “We’re going to die”—and not just because Ronald Reagan has just been elected. The thing is, it’s a snowman that’s doing the watching, and from that fact no good thing can emerge. Nesbø is to be complimented: It’s one of the creepiest opening scenes in recent memory, even if the lovemaking has a sort of late-1970s West German soft-porn feel to it. Fast-forward 24 years, when the Norwegians are worried about Dubya, and Hole is on the case of more snowman hijinks, helped along by his fellow officers of the Politioverbetjent (the Crime Squad, that is), one of whom is “attractive without trying” and makes a fine lure for mayhem. Things get creepier as the scene shifts from substation to plastic surgeon’s office to coroner’s gurney, when Harry announces, “I just have the feeling that someone is watching me the whole time, that someone is watching me now. I’m part of someone’s plan.” So he is, and the story resolves with a nice edgy twist that would do Larsson proud. Harry is pleasingly human, with a capacity for hard, grueling work being one of his best features, and the rest of the characters say and do believable things, the murderous snowman notwithstanding. The Norwegian settings are sometimes exotic, sometimes just grimy—who knew that Oslo had a high-crime area?—but always appropriate to the story, which unfolds at just the right pace.

The smart, suspenseful cat-and-mouse game will remind some readers of Erik Skjoldbjærg’s 1997 film Insomnia—and that’s high praise indeed.

Pub Date: May 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-59586-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2011

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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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Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how...

THE A LIST

A convicted killer’s list of five people he wants dead runs the gamut from the wife he’s already had murdered to franchise heroine Ali Reynolds.

Back in the day, women came from all over to consult Santa Clarita fertility specialist Dr. Edward Gilchrist. Many of them left his care happily pregnant, never dreaming that the father of the babies they carried was none other than the physician himself, who donated his own sperm rather than that of the handsome, athletic, disease-free men pictured in his scrapbook. When Alexandra Munsey’s son, Evan, is laid low by the kidney disease he’s inherited from his biological father and she returns to Gilchrist in search of the donor’s medical records, the roof begins to fall in on him. By the time it’s done falling, he’s serving a life sentence in Folsom Prison for commissioning the death of his wife, Dawn, the former nurse and sometime egg donor who’d turned on him. With nothing left to lose, Gilchrist tattoos himself with the initials of five people he blames for his fall: Dawn; Leo Manuel Aurelio, the hit man he’d hired to dispose of her; Kaitlyn Todd, the nurse/receptionist who took Dawn’s place; Alex Munsey, whose search for records upset his apple cart; and Ali Reynolds, the TV reporter who’d helped put Alex in touch with the dozen other women who formed the Progeny Project because their children looked just like hers. No matter that Ali’s been out of both California and the news business for years; Gilchrist and his enablers know that revenge can’t possibly be served too cold. Wonder how far down that list they’ll get before Ali, aided once more by Frigg, the methodical but loose-cannon AI first introduced in Duel to the Death (2018), turns on them?

Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how little the boundary-challenged AI, who gets into the case more or less inadvertently, differs from your standard human sidekick with issues.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5101-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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