THE ZERO HOUR

A well-briefed, well-financed, well-armed international terrorist goes up against the computer at the nerve center of a Wall Street bank. Billionaire Malcolm Dyson, a fugitive from American justice ever since Manhattan Bank CEO Warren Elkind resisted his criminal blandishments and turned him in for insider trading, has been licking his wounds in his Swiss estate. And ever since a clandestine federal attempt to grab him for informal extradition without benefit of legal niceties left him crippled and his wife and daughter dead, Dyson's plans for revenge have broadened to include the US government. What can he do to send a mortal blow to both his enemies? Dyson breaks terrorist Henrik Baumann, the so-called Prince of Darkness, out of a South African prison so that Baumann can (1) tap into Manhattan's computer and siphon off billions in funds, and (2) plant a bomb that will bring the building crashing down and humble the CIA and FBI. But the murder of the prostitute who steals crucial computer codes from Elkind accidentally brings FBI agent Sarah Cahill into the case—her philandering NYPD ex-husband, who knows Sarah had been running the woman as an informant, calls her in to make the identification—and with a few additional lucky breaks (a secure phone line from Switzerland that's not so secure, an erased answering-machine tape Sarah succeeds in bringing back from the dead), we're off to the races, with the feds hot on the Prince's trail, and the Prince, who knows they're hunting him, icily determined, amid all the high-tech dirty talk, to kill anybody who gets too close. Despite frequent echoes of the World Trade Center bombing, Finder (Extraordinary Powers, 1994, etc.) keeps the menace breathlessly exciting rather than grimly scary. The result is as fleet and entertaining as Black Sunday, if you don't mind rooting for an international bank. (First printing of 100,000; film rights to 20th Century-Fox; author tour)

Pub Date: May 31, 1996

ISBN: 0-688-14450-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1996

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The perfect gift for well-read mystery mavens who complain that they don’t write them like they used to.

EIGHT PERFECT MURDERS

A ghoulish killer brings a Boston bookseller’s list of perfect fictional murders to life—that is, to repeated, emphatic death.

The Red House Mystery, Malice Aforethought, The A.B.C. Murders, Double Indemnity, Strangers on a Train, The Drowner, Deathtrap, The Secret History: They may not be the best mysteries, reflects Malcolm Kershaw, but they feature the most undetectable murders, as he wrote on a little-read blog post when he was first hired at Old Devils Bookstore. Now that he owns the store with mostly silent partner Brian Murray, a semifamous mystery writer, that post has come back to haunt him. FBI agent Gwen Mulvey has observed at least three unsolved murders, maybe more, that seem to take their cues from the stories on Mal’s list. What does he think about possible links among them? she wonders. The most interesting thing he thinks is something he’s not going to share with her: He’s hiding a secret that would tie him even more closely to that list than she imagines. And while Mal is fretting about what he can do to help stop the violence without tipping his own hand, the killer, clearly untrammeled by any such scruples, continues down the list of fictional blueprints for perfect murders. Swanson (Before She Knew Him, 2019, etc.) jumps the shark early from genre thrills to metafictional puzzles, but despite a triple helping of cleverness that might seem like a fatal overdose, the pleasures of following, and trying to anticipate, a narrator who’s constantly second- and third-guessing himself and everyone around him are authentic and intense. If the final revelations are anticlimactic, that’s only because you wish the mounting complications, like a magician’s showiest routine, could go on forever.

The perfect gift for well-read mystery mavens who complain that they don’t write them like they used to.

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-283820-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

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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