A taut, thoughtful thriller; third in a series but also works as a stand-alone.

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VALLEY OF SPIES

From the Dennis Cunningham series , Vol. 3

Just months into early retirement from the CIA’s Office of the Inspector General, a former investigator accepts an agency contract to hunt for a missing person, one who knows his darkest secrets.  

In Yocum’s (A Dark Place, 2018, etc.) third—and best yet—Dennis Cunningham thriller, Dennis finds that retirement and relocation to Perth, home of longtime girlfriend and Aussie policewoman Judy White, offers him a lifestyle so relaxed that it bores him. A mandatory meeting with the director of the CIA, whose flight has a stopover in Australia, livens things up. The director explains that Dr. Jane Forrester, a therapist approved to treat agency members, disappeared while visiting New Zealand. Key members of the CIA determine a specific foreign country is responsible for the abduction, and a counterstrike against that nation is likely. But before authorizing the attack, the director gives Dennis, who has a zest and a rep for tracking people down, two weeks to find Forrester—or discover what happened to her—and to confirm agency intel. The director explains there are lots of reasons why an adversary would want to get their hands on the therapist—she “knows too much about her patients. She knows their weaknesses, their vulnerabilities.” She, in fact, knew Dennis’—she had been his therapist. The search for Forrester reconnects rough-around-the-edges Dennis with his former boss, Louise Nordland. The “tough, diminutive” ex-SEAL and Dennis had issues with each other in the past, but soon (sorry, Judy) sexual tension between the pair ramps up. Yocum skillfully varies the pace throughout this thriller and doesn’t shrink from brutal scenes of killings. Dialogue rings true, and descriptions suit the genre: “He had a pronounced underbite that pushed his chin forward into a reptilian face.” Yocum metes out backstory organically, and his nonstandard characters range from a confident, sexy, blonde amputee to Dennis himself—known for a drinking problem, about to become a grandfather, and still haunted by his own horrific childhood.

A taut, thoughtful thriller; third in a series but also works as a stand-alone.

Pub Date: May 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9978708-3-1

Page Count: 328

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: May 7, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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