A standout espionage tale that not only delivers a riveting plot, but a stellar presentation as well.



A CIA officer’s 1968 investigation into a death linked to a secretive compound smells of a KGB assassination—or perhaps his own agency’s involvement—in this spy novel.

Lt. Richard Nolan of the U.S. Army (a CIA cover ID) is in the Mojave Desert in search of missing trash hauler Jeremiah McLemore. His disappearance is suspicious because he was contracted by Camp Harrison, aka Camp X, a mysterious facility reputedly used for Army training. Working with local cop Officer Thomas Bell, Nolan eventually finds a body near McLemore’s beloved Willys Jeep. It appears to be an accidental death, possibly due to extreme heat, but footprints could mean a staged murder. This is supported by McLemore’s earlier strange encounter: an unknown man asked to examine the trash he was collecting. A journalist’s column, however, throws everyone into a tailspin when it suggests McLemore was assassinated by foreign agents. Nolan’s boss, Chief of Counterintelligence James Jesus Angleton, seems to think the column is the Soviets’ attempt to generate disinformation. But Nolan soon realizes that, while he’s withholding some material from Angleton, his boss is likely doing the same. Answers may lie inside the walls of Camp X, which Nolan begins surveilling, as he knows very little about the compound. When his wife and teen daughter subsequently vanish, he suspects an abduction. Either someone’s convinced he’s gathered classified Camp X intelligence, for which the Soviet Union would shell out millions, or the CIA wants to ensure that he keeps mum about whatever he’s learned. The most striking element of Knoerle’s (Crystal Meth Cowboys, 2015, etc.) story is its configuration. The book comprises transcriptions of Nolan’s audio recordings, private correspondence, telex transmissions, and personal notes. Most are in the style of a formal report, but the descriptions aren’t bloodless, especially with details from an observant Nolan. For example, he and former policeman Bob Reese creep into McLemore’s house in the early-morning hours: “We were dressed in dark colors, wearing disposable gloves. No dogs barked. The only sign of life was a stray coyote that darted off at our approach.” The shifting narrative formats are easy to follow (predominantly linear), and Knoerle even gives them distinction. Sometimes Nolan is relaying a scene based solely on his recollection, while other times it’s a transcript rife with deficiencies, like a conversation with gaps indicating inaudible segments. There’s an indisputable mystery playing in the background, from Camp X to what exactly happened to McLemore. Even Nolan himself is an enigma: readers don’t immediately learn his name or his specific job, and one can’t help but wonder (in light of an editor’s intermittent notations) whether the protagonist is still alive. Some of the reveals are surprising, and the author sprinkles them throughout in lieu of saving them all until the end. Smartly understated humor is suitably spy-related; when Angleton’s secretary recites a code to Nolan, the latter alters his response to subvert a potential meeting—and hears a gasp in return.

A standout espionage tale that not only delivers a riveting plot, but a stellar presentation as well.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9820903-1-2

Page Count: 298

Publisher: Blue Steel Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.


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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An appealing new heroine, a fast-moving plot, and a memorably nightmarish family make this one of Box’s best.

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The creator of Wyoming Fish and Game Warden Joe Pickett (Wolf Pack, 2019, etc.) launches a new series starring a female private eye who messes with a powerful family and makes everyone involved rue the day.

Cassie Dewell’s been taking a monthly retainer from Bozeman attorney Rachel Mitchell for investigations of one sort and another, but she really doesn’t want to look into the case of Rachel’s newest client. That’s partly because Blake Kleinsasser, the fourth-generation firstborn of a well-established ranching family who moved to New York and made his own bundle before returning back home, comes across as a repellent jerk and partly because all the evidence indicates that he raped Franny Porché, his 15-year-old niece. And there’s plenty of evidence, from a rape kit showing his DNA to a lengthy, plausible statement from Franny. But Cassie owes Rachel, and Rachel tells her she doesn’t have to dig up exculpatory evidence, just follow the trail where it leads so that she can close off every other possibility. So Cassie agrees even though there’s an even more compelling reason not to: The Kleinsassers—Horst II and Margaret and their three other children, John Wayne, Rand, and Cheyenne, Franny’s thrice-divorced mother—are not only toxic, but viperishly dangerous to Blake and now Cassie. Everyone in Lochsa County, from Sheriff Ben Wagy on down, is in their pockets, and everyone Cassie talks to, from the Kleinsassers to the local law, finds new ways to make her life miserable. But Cassie, an ex-cop single mother, isn’t one to back down, especially since she wonders why anyone would take all the trouble to stop an investigation of a case that was as rock-solid as this one’s supposed to be.

An appealing new heroine, a fast-moving plot, and a memorably nightmarish family make this one of Box’s best.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-05105-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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