Though the book’s war-on-terror filigree edges close to the universe of Jason Bourne, the (holy) spirit is willing in this...

Island of the Assassin

Roman Catholic priest and novelist Peter Quince finds himself the surprised employer of an icy, international CIA hit man, whose secret yearning for absolution risks both their lives.

Prolific author Roccasalvo (Triple Sec: Three Distilled Love Stories, 2013, etc.) evokes Graham Greene, rather appropriately, in a novella-length tale of political intrigue, guilt, sin, and redemption. Quince has written a popular mystery-thriller novel, The Thirteenth Floor. Quite unexpectedly, he inherits an entire Mediterranean island and estate from a prosperous Italian artisan he knew only briefly. Quince uses this tourists’ idyll to work on much-anticipated international stage versions of The Thirteenth Floor, but in the meantime makes the troubling acquaintance of another estate fixture, the island’s live-in “security” specialist, Kai Landrie. A Eurasian yoga master with ninja stealth, marathon-runner stamina, and Buddhist self-control, Landrie spends weekends away as an elite assassin for the CIA, killing enemies of the United States with nothing but his bare hands. He makes a specialty of Islamic terrorists, having seen his parents slain (and been himself raped) by Muslims in Thailand. Despite his steely predator exterior, Landrie is severely divided against himself, and he seeks and listens to Quince’s religious counsel of forgiveness and compassion as a counterweight to his drive for revenge. But CIA Director Titus Rede learns of his prize killer’s dawning conversion and finds the meddlesome priest a threat to national security. Roccasalvo uses only a bit more than 100 pages and lean prose reminiscent of classic Ian Fleming (minus the sexual emphasis and brand-name luxury products lovingly described) to unfold a tragic narrative of the sacred and the damned seemingly trying to bridge the gulf between each other. The author includes a clerical nod toward the culture of Italy that sired religious, scientific, and artistic breakthroughs alongside the murderous rules of the Medicis and Borgias. Readers may find the material straddling the aisles between spiritual vestments and cloak-and-dagger, although at no point does the author succumb to thrill-ride antics and pulpy purple prose. He does, however, add excerpts from The Thirteenth Floor as an occasional story-within-the-story; it’s actually interesting stuff (blending architecture, whodunit, and the paranormal), but borderline distracting.   

Though the book’s war-on-terror filigree edges close to the universe of Jason Bourne, the (holy) spirit is willing in this bumpy, parablelike tale. 

Pub Date: March 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5144-7095-4

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once...

DELIVER US FROM EVIL

In Baldacci’s 19th (True Blue, 2009, etc.), boy and girl monster-hunters meet cute.

Evan Waller, aka Fadir Kuchin, aka “the Butcher of Kiev,” aka “the Ukrainian psychopath,” is one of those deep-dyed villains a certain kind of fiction can’t do without. Serving with distinction as part of the Soviet Union’s KGB, he joyfully and indiscriminately killed thousands. Now, many years later, posing as a successful businessman, he’s vacationing in Provence where, unbeknownst to him, two separate clandestine operations are being mounted by people who do not regard him with favor. Reggie Campion—28 and gorgeous—spearheads the first, an ad hoc group of monster-hunting vigilantes. Studly, tall Shaw (no first name supplied) is point guard for a rival team, shadowy enough to leave the matter of its origin ambiguous. While their respective teams reconnoiter and jockey for position, studly boy meets gorgeous girl. Monster-hunters are famous for having trust issues, but clearly these are drawn to each other in the time-honored Hollywood fashion. Shaw saves Reggie’s life. She returns the favor. The attraction deepens and heats up to the point where team-members on both sides grow unsettled by the loss of focus, singularly inopportune since, as monsters go, Waller rises to the second coming of Caligula—ample testimony furnished by a six-page, unsparingly detailed torture scene. In the end, the stalkers strike, bullets fly, screams curdle the blood, love has its innings and a monster does what a monster’s got to do.

The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once again show the stuff it’s made of.

Pub Date: April 20, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-446-56408-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Avon A/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2010

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