If they liked it once, they'll love it twice. That's the wise rationale behind Follett's new WW II thriller, which recycles the same basic scenario—now in 1942 Cairo instead of 1944 England—that made Eye of the Needle such a winner. Again the central figure is a Nazi spy with secrets that could change history: Arab-German Achmed, a.k.a. Alex Wolff, is sent to his native Cairo (in the splendid opening, he walks there from Libya) to gather secrets from the British and broadcast them to Rommel in the desert, using pages of du Maurier's Rebecca for a code. And, after a few bumbles (he steals a briefcase full of army menus), Achmed/Alex is a success, thanks to his moll—bisexual, masochistic, Anglo-loathing belly-dancer Sonja; together they lure a wimpy British major into feverish liaisons with Sonja on her houseboat. . . while Alex steals secret papers from his briefcase. So Alex does broadcast to Rommel, who's thus able to win at Tobruk and Mersa Matruh, closing in on Cairo. But someone's after Alex, of course. William Vandam of Army Intelligence, an introverted widower with small son, has picked up the elusive spy's trail—a murder, forged currency—and almost captures him at a nightclub (Alex escapes, knifing Vandam in the face). Vandam's primary plan, however, involves Elene Fontana, an Egyptian-Jewish courtesan (eager for a new life in Palestine) who agrees to pose as a clerk at Alex's favorite grocery. And sure enough, just after getting the secrets of the El Alamein line from the Major (who is graphically drowned), Alex invites Elene to the houseboat for menage a  trois with Sonja. From there on, it's a pure (and pretty corny) Buchanesque chase: Vandam follows them to the boat; Alex grabs Elene and Vandam's little son, racing to where his spare radio is hidden; Vandam (now in love with Elene, and vice versa) pursues, determined to rescue his loved ones and to use Alex's radio to broadcast fake El Alamein info to Rommel. . . . The plotting's fine—except for a half-baked subplot about pro-Nazi nationalists, like young Sadat—and the characterization's serviceable, though lacking the gripping ambiguity of Needle's sympathetic villain. What's special here, however, is Follett's Ambler-ish feel for spying's unglamorous side, his subtle threading-through of the Rebecca motif (Vandam's late wife), his totally lean yet atmospheric narration. Top-notch entertainment—shrewdly paced, cannily crafted.

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 1980

ISBN: 0451207793

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Sept. 23, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1980

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.


Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Child builds tension to unbearable extremes, then blows it out in sharply choreographed violence, even if his plot has more...


From the Jack Reacher series , Vol. 5

Smashingly suspenseful fifth in Child’s series (Running Blind, 2000, etc.) lands this British author’s rootless, laconic action hero in southwest Texas, where a femme fatale lures him into a family squabble that inevitably turns violent.

In the kind of daylight-noir setting that Jim Thompson loved, ex-military cop Jack Reacher has his thumb out on a lonely west Texas highway when he’s picked up by Carmine Greer, the Mexican-American wife of bad-ol’-boy Sloop Greer. It seems that Sloop, elder son of a white-trash-turned-oil-rich ranching dynasty, is nearing the end of a prison term for tax evasion, and Carmine, whose body Reacher sees is marked with signs of physical abuse, wants Reacher to be her bodyguard—or, failing that, kill the man in such a way that Carmine can still hold on to her terminally cute six-year-old daughter Ellie. Reacher refuses but decides to meet the folks: Rusty, Sloop’s racist, charmless mother, and Bobby, Sloop’s stupid, pugnacious brother. Meanwhile, a trio of paid assassins is littering the Texas roadside with corpses, starting with Sloop’s lawyer, Al Eugene. In a set-piece as good as anything in Elmore Leonard, Bobby sends two ranch-hands to ambush Reacher at an Abilene roadhouse filled with 20 other cowboys spoiling for a fight. Reacher walks away without a scratch, telling Bobby that his hospitalized ranch-hands have “quit.” Child twists his increasingly hokey plot into a pretzel when Sloop is found dead and Carmine confesses to killing him. Reacher just can’t believe that Carmine is guilty and teams up with Alice Aarons, a leggy Jewish lesbian fresh out of law school, who trusts him with her car, her handgun, and her life.

Child builds tension to unbearable extremes, then blows it out in sharply choreographed violence, even if his plot has more holes in it than the shirt Reacher uses for target practice.

Pub Date: July 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-14726-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2001

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