Scattered clichés and a threadbare Mata Hari subplot aside, this one will please fans.



Ploys and counter-ploys, motives sincere and suspicious, agents trustworthy and treacherous—plus a daunting lexicon of spy-agency jargon, terms and acronyms—highlight a complex thriller about the search for a “most wanted” terrorist.

Like just about everyone else who appears in this intricate tale from British journalist Stock (Dead Spy Running, 2010, etc.), the storyteller in the Marrakech marketplace is more than he appears to be. Besides regaling visitors, he passes on, in code, orders to Daniel Marchant, late of Britain’s MI6, to head into the nearby mountains where Salim Dhar, who recently attempted to assassinate the president of the United States, may be hiding out. In the well-crafted set piece that follows, Marchant watches as six U.S. Marines are captured, but not before Dhar appears before them and is taken out. Or is he? Washington’s National Security Agency, eager to annihilate Dhar—and score a coup over MI6—insists he was. But Marchant thinks Dhar lives on. A labyrinthine plot with an overriding theme of trust ensues. Sipping scotch back in Marrakech, Marchant meets CIA op Lakshmi Meena, who happens to mention the "'half-brother thing'" between Marchant and Dhar, something to which M16 operatives in Britain are keenly attuned. Fearing Dhar may be at the center of plans to launch a massive terrorist attack on London, the intelligence agency thinks Marchant’s fraternal tie to Dhar may afford an approach to the terrorist. But some at M16 distrust Marchant’s allegiances since his late father, who had been at MI6, was thought by some to be a covert Russian agent. Russia likewise questions Dhar’s sympathies and wants him to prove his loyalty. It is left to the younger Marchant to reach Dhar and force his hand—or to reveal his own loyalties.

Scattered clichés and a threadbare Mata Hari subplot aside, this one will please fans.

Pub Date: March 27, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-312-64477-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2012

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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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