Richly textured, compulsively readable, and brilliant throughout.

HAMMER

An art auctioneer gets entangled with a Russian oligarch.

It’s 2013, and Martin, a junior specialist at a posh London auction house, spends his days wheeling and dealing with art-collecting elites and his evenings drinking beer in a grubby basement apartment with his depressed musician roommate. Then one evening Oleg Gorelov—a Russian oligarch with a checkered past and a peerless art collection—comes into the house and casually buys a Basquiat for 10 million pounds. Oleg’s far younger wife, Marina, is Martin’s old college friend, and in the wake of the sale, she and Martin resume their acquaintance. This gives Martin access to Oleg, who eventually shows Martin a work by Russian painter Kazimir Malevich that art historians believed lost. If Martin can acquire that painting for sale by the house, it will drastically boost his career. But Martin’s growing proximity to the Gorelovs soon gets complicated: First, his friendship with Marina evolves into something they have to hide; then Oleg decides he’s going to remake himself (and the country he helped plunder) by challenging Putin’s reign and running for president on a reformist platform. Reed’s riveting second novel is at once a romance, a geopolitical thriller, a meditation on art, and an investigation of the moral compromises that everyone makes in the gravitational presence of wealth. Reed does a masterful job of complicating his characters’ motivations. Does Marina feel something special for Martin, or is she just dissatisfied with Oleg? Can Martin’s interests in Marina be uncoupled from his interest in Oleg’s art collection? To what extent is Martin’s love of painters like Malevich influenced by his knowledge of the insane value that the art market places on Malevich’s work? Are Oleg’s reformist ambitions motivated by a sincere regret about the nation-ruining side effects of his ruthless accumulation of wealth, or is he just nostalgic for the “wild years” when he could profit from his visions unencumbered by weak constraints like guilt?

Richly textured, compulsively readable, and brilliant throughout.

Pub Date: March 22, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-982121-62-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022

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A smart summer escape.

PORTRAIT OF AN UNKNOWN WOMAN

Silva’s latest Gabriel Allon novel is a bit of a throwback—in the best possible way.

One-time assassin and legendary spymaster Gabriel Allon has finally retired. After saying farewell to his friends and colleagues in Israel, he moves with his wife, Chiara, and their two young children to a piano nobile overlooking Venice’s Grand Canal. His plan is to return to the workshop where he learned to restore paintings as an employee—but only after he spends several weeks recovering from the bullet wound that left him dead for several minutes in The Cellist (2021). Of course, no one expects Gabriel to entirely withdraw from the field, and, sure enough, a call from his friend and occasional asset Julian Isherwood sends him racing around the globe on the trail of art forgers who are willing to kill to protect their extremely lucrative enterprise. Silva provides plenty of thrills and, as usual, offers a glimpse into the lifestyles of the outrageously wealthy. In the early books in this series, it was Gabriel’s work as an art restorer that set him apart from other action heroes, and his return to that world is the most rewarding part of this installment. It is true that, at this point in his storied career, Gabriel has become a nearly mythic figure. And Silva is counting on a lot of love—and willing suspension of disbelief—when Gabriel whips up four old master canvases that fool the world’s leading art experts as a lure for the syndicate selling fake paintings. That said, as Silva explains in an author’s note, the art market is rife with secrecy, subterfuge, and wishful thinking, in no small part because it is almost entirely unregulated. And, if anyone can crank out a Titian, a Tintoretto, a Gentileschi, and a Veronese in a matter of days, it’s Gabriel Allon. The author’s longtime fans may breathe a sigh of relief that this entry is relatively free of politics and the pandemic is nowhere in sight.

A smart summer escape.

Pub Date: July 19, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-283485-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Harper

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: tomorrow

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A unique story of transcendent love.

LAYLA

An aimless young musician meets the girl of his dreams only to have his newfound happiness threatened by several inexplicable—and possibly supernatural—events.

The story opens as Leeds Gabriel meets with a detective while his girlfriend, Layla, is restrained in a room one flight above them. Through the interview, readers learn that Leeds was wasting both his time and his musical talent playing backup for a small-town wedding troupe called Garrett’s Band when he spied Layla dancing her heart out to their mediocre music at a wedding. When Leeds approaches Layla, their connection is both instant and intense. A blissful courtship follows, but then Leeds makes the mistake of posting a picture of himself with Layla on social media. A former girlfriend–turned-stalker wastes no time in finding and attacking Layla. Layla spends months recovering in a hospital, and it seems the girl Leeds fell for might be forever changed. Gone is her special spark, her quirkiness, and the connection that had entranced Leeds months before. In a last-ditch effort to save their relationship, he brings Layla back to the bed-and-breakfast where they first met. When they get there, though, Leeds meets Willow, another guest, and finds himself drawn to her in spite of himself. As events unfold, it becomes clear that Willow will either be the key to saving Leeds’ relationship with Layla or the catalyst that finally extinguishes the last shreds of their epic romance. Told entirely from Leeds’ point of view, the author’s first foray into paranormal romance does not disappoint. Peppered with elements of mystery, psychological thriller, and contemporary romance, the novel explores questions about how quickly true love can develop, as well as the conflicts that can imperil even the strongest connections. Despite a limited cast of characters and very few setting changes, the narrative manages to remain both fast-paced and engaging. The conclusion leaves a few too many loose ends, but the chemistry between the characters and unexpected twists throughout make for a satisfying read.

A unique story of transcendent love.

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5420-0017-8

Page Count: 301

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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