John Worthington “J.W.” Mayfair used to fly bombing missions during the Vietnam War, and now he’s the vice president of a...




In this debut thriller based upon a real-life 1996 plane crash, a young man must uphold his family’s honor while also facing ethical challenges posed by terrorists and the U.S. government.

John Worthington “J.W.” Mayfair used to fly bombing missions during the Vietnam War, and now he’s the vice president of a software company. As he leaves New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport for a business meeting in Paris, he decides to call Liam, his estranged son, from the plane. While he leaves his message of reconciliation, however, he sees a surface-to-air missile launch from a nearby oil tanker, and his plane, TWA Flight 800, is blown from the sky. Authorities eventually rule that the tragedy was simply the result of a short circuit. Two years later, Liam, who never got J.W.’s message, still has nightmares about his father’s death, and his own life seems adrift and aimless. His mother, however, wants him to become involved in her planned lawsuit against TWA for negligence. Then Liam finally hears the answering machine message he missed so long ago, and he realizes that it could prove that terrorists attacked the plane. If he reveals the message to others, however, his mother’s potential financial windfall could vanish. Liam’s situation worsens when shady figures start gunning for him and anyone else capable of challenging the “short circuit” theory. Debut author Picciano delivers a meticulously crafted thriller packed with details that re-create the Flight 800 tragedy all too well: “The sea was covered with floating corpses…and the bizarre coating of gold glitter which had been blown out of boxes and now covered the hair and clothing and faces of the dead.” However, the story’s main strength is the author’s finely tuned characterization. For example, Liam, unlike his overachieving brothers, is described as being “like the boy who suddenly realizes that the only way he can see the hidden tiger in the 3-D image simply relaxing and allowing it to reveal itself.” Sometimes the author’s colorful imagery fails, however, such as when Flight 800 is callously compared to a “Chinese firecracker.”  Such a description makes the gravitas that Flight 800 brings to the narrative feel unearned. The novel could have entertained readers just as well by using a fictional tragedy. A page-turning thriller debut but one that overreaches by pulling straight from the headlines.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: -

Publisher: Page Publishing

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2014

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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.


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.


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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