In this installment of the Bertrand McAbee Mystery series, the former classics professor and current private investigator is drawn into a cold case of theft and murder that spans generations and continents and finds roots in the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

When a colleague dies on a lonely road late at night under questionable circumstances, McAbee’s investigation turns up links to local thugs, the Chicago Mafia and even World War I war criminals. And as he untangles the web, McAbee discovers that at the heart of it all lies a priceless, jewel-encrusted Hapsburg heirloom—commissioned by the Archduke himself and not seen in almost 100 years—that, incredibly, may be hidden away in the state of Ohio, or may not exist at all. McAbee, a likable, albeit conflicted protagonist, goes out of his way to defy the hardboiled gumshoe stereotype: he drinks nonalcoholic beer, eschews the advances of beautiful women and steadfastly refuses to carry a gun, even when faced with obvious mortal danger. Given all this, one might reasonably expect a cerebral sequence in which McAbee shows his detective chops and gathers evidence, utilizes all his powers of observation to connect the dots and solves the mystery while the police are still scrambling to keep up. Instead, McAbee calls in a crack team of former SEALs to illegally and brutally torture information out of suspects by administering shocks to their nether-regions. He gets answers, but Sherlock Holmes he is not—this solution feels a bit unsatisfying and contrived. The hypocrisy is glaring, and one character briefly calls him out on it, but the reader never gets a straight answer about this contradiction, or an explanation of why an aging college professor has ready access to a torture-happy version of the A-Team. In McAbee we have a hero who won’t carry a gun for moralistic reasons, yet has no problem outsourcing torture. Despite this uneven characterization, McCaffrey (Scholarly Executions, 2005, etc.) keeps the plot moving at a good clip, ramping up tension while McAbee manages the diverse and bickering group of characters that comprises his investigative team. While the story takes place in the present day, the author utilizes flashbacks with several characters to 1914 pre-war Austria, 1920s Italy and the gangland Chicago of the ’40s to gradually parcel out all the clues. The pre-WWI historical background and international intrigue distinguish this gripping and at times addictive mystery from the standard whodunits.


Pub Date: July 25, 2005

ISBN: 978-1420854886

Page Count: 307

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2012

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Now that Coben’s added politics to his heady brew, expect sex and religion to join the mix.

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Coben’s latest darkest-suburbs thriller sets a decidedly offbeat detective on the trail of a crime with overtones unmistakably redolent of once and future presidential elections.

Wilde is called Wilde because nobody’s known his real name from the moment a pair of hikers found him foraging for himself in Ramapo Mountain State Forest 24 years ago. Now over 40, he’s had experience as both a lost boy and a private investigator. That makes him an obvious person to help when his godson, Sweet Water High School student Matthew Crimstein, expresses concern to his grandmother, attorney Hester Crimstein, that his bullied classmate Naomi Pine has gone missing. Matthew doesn’t really want anyone to help. He doesn’t even want anyone to notice his agitation. But Hester, taking the time from her criminal defense of financial consultant Simon Greene (Run Away, 2019) to worm the details out of him, asks Wilde to lend a hand, and sure enough, Wilde, unearthing an unsavory backstory that links Naomi to bullying classmate Crash Maynard, whose TV producer father, Dash Maynard, is close friends with reality TV star–turned–presidential hopeful Rusty Eggers, finds Naomi hale and hearty. Everything’s hunky-dory for one week, and then she disappears again. And this time, so does Crash after a brief visit to Matthew in which he tearfully confesses his guilt about the bad stuff he did to Naomi. This second disappearance veers into more obviously criminal territory with the arrival of a ransom note that demands, not money, but the allegedly incriminating videotapes of Rusty Eggers that Dash and Delia Maynard have had squirreled away for 30 years. The tapes link Rusty to a forgotten and forgettable homicide and add a paranoid new ripped-from-the-headlines dimension to the author’s formidable range. Readers who can tune out all the subplots will find the kidnappers easy to spot, but Coben finds room for three climactic surprises, one of them a honey.

Now that Coben’s added politics to his heady brew, expect sex and religion to join the mix.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4814-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.


Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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