Yes, it’s too long, resulting in a certain noticeable softness around the middle, but time and place are so vividly evoked,...

STARDUST

Kanon’s atmospheric, character-driven latest (Alibi, 2005, etc.) comes within a whisker of being flawless.

Hollywood, 1945: a place where an observer as shrewd as Ben Collier could easily conclude, “Nothing can lie like a smile.” Lots of smilers, lots of lies, lots of reasons for Ben not to believe that his brother Danny’s death was either a suicide or an accident, though both have been put forward as explanations. Still in uniform, Signal Corps officer Ben arrives in Hollywood on assignment to make a Nazi death-camp documentary for the army. He’ll work under the auspices of Continental Films and Sol Lasner, its pepper-pot founder and boss. But there’s a subtext, of course. In Germany, where they were boys, Ben adored his charismatic older brother. Danny’s charm, unflagging energy and zest for life were givens in the Kohler household. Suicide? Never! Accident? Well, perhaps, but Ben can’t be convinced of its likelihood. Though circumstances, mostly those attendant on being a Jew under Hitler, uprooted and eventually separated them, the brothers had remained in touch as best they could, while leading far-flung and disparate lives: Ben a soldier, Danny a movie producer. A movie producer with enigmatic sides to him, Ben discovers as his investigation intensifies. There’s the mystery surrounding his role as husband, for instance, to the beautiful Liesl, who will come to loom large in Ben’s own life. There are the unsettling ways Danny seems connected to the infamous Congressional Red-baiting that’s breaking so many careers and hearts now that the Russians are no longer U.S. allies. His brother had bitter enemies, Ben soon realizes. Which one was a murderer?

Yes, it’s too long, resulting in a certain noticeable softness around the middle, but time and place are so vividly evoked, and the writing is so strong, that most readers will be of a mind to forgive.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4391-5614-8

Page Count: 506

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2009

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This is fast-paced, nonstop fun. Cussler fans will gobble it up.

JOURNEY OF THE PHARAOHS

Rumors of lost Egyptian treasure spark high adventure in this 17th in the NUMA series featuring oceanographer Kurt Austin and his crew (Sea of Greed, 2018, etc.).

Over 3,000 years ago, grave robbers sail away with loot from a pharaoh’s tomb. In 1927, Jake Melbourne and his plane disappear in his attempt at a trans-Atlantic flight. In the present day, arms merchants known as the Bloodstone Group have taken to stealing antiquities. They are looking for a “treasure both vast and glorious” that hieroglyphics say was shipped down the Nile and out of Egypt, perhaps even west across the Atlantic. (Holy scurvy! That must’ve been a lot of hard rowing!) The criminals are known to MI5 as “very dangerous people" and "merchants selling death.” Perfectly willing to kill everyone in their way, they are aided by mechanical crows and Fydor and Xandra, nasty sibling assassins jointly called the Toymaker. Such are the foes faced by Austin and his team from the National Underwater and Marine Agency. Of course, Austin has no interest in profit; he will gladly leave the ancient riches wherever they are. Action arrives early and often, and the failed pre-Lindbergh flight fits in neatly. Cussler and Brown concoct a nifty plot with disparate, sometimes over-the-top twists that will make even hardcore adventure fans say “Wow!” Expect claustrophobic gunfights, aerial combat, a life-threatening flood, messages from the dead, coffins of gold—and a vintage classic car, because why not? “We’re going to steal the greatest deposit of Egyptian treasure the world has ever known,” brags the evil mastermind. But he’ll have to climb over the series hero’s dead body first, which—no plot spoiler here—ain’t gonna happen.

This is fast-paced, nonstop fun. Cussler fans will gobble it up.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-08308-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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A gritty, complicated heroine like Flora Dane deserves a better plot than this needlessly complicated story.

FIND HER

A kidnapping survivor–turned-vigilante tries to save another young woman while the police do everything they can to save them both.

Flora Dane might look unscathed but she’s permanently scarred from having been abducted while on spring break in Florida seven years earlier by Jacob Ness, a sadistic trucker who held her captive for 472 days, keeping her in a coffin for much of the time when he wasn't forcing her to have sex with him. Now back in Boston and schooled in self-defense, Flora is obsessed with kidnapped girls and the nature of survival, a topic she touches on a bit more than necessary in the many flashbacks to her time in captivity. Gardner (Crash & Burn, 2015, etc.) must walk a fine line in accurately evoking the horrors of Flora’s past ordeals without slipping into excessive descriptions of violence; she is not entirely successful. When Flora thwarts another kidnapping attempt by killing Devon Goulding, her would-be abductor, Gardner regular Sgt. Detective D.D. Warren’s interest is piqued even though she’s meant to be on restricted duty. Then Flora disappears for real, and Warren, along with Dr. Samuel Keynes, the FBI victim specialist from Flora's original kidnapping, fears it’s related to the kidnapping three months earlier of Stacey Summers, a case Flora followed closely. Gardner alternates between Warren’s investigation into Flora’s disappearance and Flora’s present-day hell at the hands of a new enemy, but the implausibility of the sheer number of kidnappings, among other things, strains credulity.

A gritty, complicated heroine like Flora Dane deserves a better plot than this needlessly complicated story.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-525-95457-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015

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