A sensational protagonist highlights a tale that’s full of intrigue.



In Roberts’ debut thriller, an Indonesian police officer aids Interpol in taking down a powerful cartel that’s manufacturing drugs in a number of countries, including her own.

Sarah Michelle Dharmawan of the Indonesian National Police is in Manchester, England, getting briefed on her latest assignment. She’s a well-trained and well-respected officer who was part of an anti-terrorist unit in Jakarta, although she’s required to keep mum about the membership. Now, in her latest posting, she’s the liaison between the INP and the Interpol Incident Response Team, which is focusing its efforts on the Irish Cartel, which has its origins in Northern Ireland. Although the Good Friday Agreement sought to decommission paramilitary groups in the late 1990s, some criminals continued to profit from existing drug operations. The Irish Cartel, which concentrates on producing and distributing MDMA, aka ecstasy, has drug factories in the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, and, according to recent intel, Indonesia. Sarah’s initial task is to help locate the Indonesian facility, but soon she’s working with team member Michael Adrian of the British Army. His plan is to bait Irish Cartel members into an ambush. However, the cartel retaliates by targeting Michael and Sarah for abduction. It’s essentially an assassination order, as noted cartel member Niall Schroeder delights in disemboweling captive women and beating men to death. The Interpol Incident Response Team, meanwhile, identifies and, with the assistance of the military, subsequently raids the cartel’s drug factories. But tensions rise when the villains kidnap someone, as there’s little time before Niall’s interrogation tactics will turn lethal. Roberts’ novel showcases a skilled female protagonist whose accomplishments are impressive. Although the author’s repeated descriptions of Sarah’s physical allure and muscular abdominals are excessive, she’s also shown to thrive in a male-dominated industry, and the author tackles this milieu with finesse and guile. Still, her Interpol boss, Christopher Broussard is worried about putting her out in the field, as the Interpol IRT has lost a member, Karen Wilson, to the atrocious Niall. Indeed, this cartel member is the source of much of the story’s violence; none of it is overtly graphic, although it does succeed at clarifying the dangerous circumstances of Sarah’s and Michael’s work. The striking action scenes are rife with guns, knives, and explosions. Perhaps the most remarkable scene in the novel relies on stealth, as a balaclava-clad Sarah creeps into a bad guy’s house, slowly clearing rooms while eluding security cameras at the same time. The romance between Sarah and Michael happens rather quickly, but it does provide some relief from the bloody confrontations and adds complexity to the sometimes-withdrawn characters. Nevertheless, a sequence in which the couple enjoys a vacation (of sorts) in Herefordshire is too long and slows the momentum. For the most part, though, Roberts manages to instill a sense of dread, as it takes quite some time for Sarah to find the Indonesian facility; also, someone is feeding information to the Irish Cartel.

A sensational protagonist highlights a tale that’s full of intrigue.

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4834-5984-4

Page Count: 442

Publisher: Lulu Publishing Services

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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A financier's Ponzi scheme unravels to disastrous effect, revealing the unexpected connections among a cast of disparate characters.

How did Vincent Smith fall overboard from a container ship near the coast of Mauritania, fathoms away from her former life as Jonathan Alkaitis' pretend trophy wife? In this long-anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven (2014), Mandel uses Vincent's disappearance to pick through the wreckage of Alkaitis' fraudulent investment scheme, which ripples through hundreds of lives. There's Paul, Vincent's half brother, a composer and addict in recovery; Olivia, an octogenarian painter who invested her retirement savings in Alkaitis' funds; Leon, a former consultant for a shipping company; and a chorus of office workers who enabled Alkaitis and are terrified of facing the consequences. Slowly, Mandel reveals how her characters struggle to align their stations in life with their visions for what they could be. For Vincent, the promise of transformation comes when she's offered a stint with Alkaitis in "the kingdom of money." Here, the rules of reality are different and time expands, allowing her to pursue video art others find pointless. For Alkaitis, reality itself is too much to bear. In his jail cell, he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims and escapes into "the counterlife," a soothing alternate reality in which he avoided punishment. It's in these dreamy sections that Mandel's ideas about guilt and responsibility, wealth and comfort, the real and the imagined, begin to cohere. At its heart, this is a ghost story in which every boundary is blurred, from the moral to the physical. How far will Alkaitis go to deny responsibility for his actions? And how quickly will his wealth corrupt the ambitions of those in proximity to it? In luminous prose, Mandel shows how easy it is to become caught in a web of unintended consequences and how disastrous it can be when such fragile bonds shatter under pressure.

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52114-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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