ROBERT LUDLUM'S THE ARES DECISION

Diabolical Caleb Bahame, “brutal terrorist and cult leader,” has unleashed hell in Uganda, and there are rumors Bahame is seeking an unholy alliance.


The CIA knows something spooky is happening, perhaps involving Iran’s rogue government. Into Uganda goes a special-ops team. Out comes one man alive. President Sam Adams Castilla understands the intelligence bureaucracy usually generates assessments suiting its own agenda. Castilla calls on Covert-One, a blacker-than-black operations group overseen by his longtime friend and trusted confidante, Fred Klein. Klein has a man he trusts too, Col. Jon Smith, an army microbiologist and veteran of several hazardous Covert-One missions. The video of the Uganda fight that wiped out the special ops team shows unarmed men, women and children running into gunfire and killing the armed men barehanded. There’s speculation Bahame is fueling his followers with narcotics and witchcraft, but Smith’s research soon says otherwise. The action moves from Washington to California, where Smith drafts ex-SAS commando Peter Howell for a clandestine foray to Uganda. Enroute, the pair stop in South Africa to meet Dr. Sarie van Keuren, world-renowned parasite expert. She decides to tag along. Meanwhile the Ayatollah Khamenei lurks in Tehran, half-believing that his trusted underling Mehrak Omidi has discovered a practicable biological weapon in the hands of the infidel Baheme. After firefights, diversions and an unlucky cave exploration, Smith and company end up captured and imprisoned at Baheme’s camp. There Omidi is present for a demonstration of the bio-weapon. Characters are formulaic and Covert-One familiar. Action moves through brief, dialogue-heavy chapters and unravels a serviceable plot, right down to Sarie’s capture and transport to an underground Iranian bio-weapons facility. There Omidi attempts to coerce her into weaponizing a thing best left untouched until Smith, Howell and an Iranian rebel force battle their way to the lab and beyond. 

Nothing fancy here, but plenty of comfort food for those with an appetite for the thriller genre.

 

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-446-69908-2

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

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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POP GOES THE WEASEL

After a flight in fantasy with When the Wind Blows (1998), Patterson goes to ground with another slash-and-squirm psychokiller page-turner, this one dedicated to “the millions of Alex Cross readers, who so frequently ask, can’t you write faster?” By day, Geoffrey Shafer is a charming, 42-year-old British Embassy paper-pusher with a picture-perfect family and a shady past as an MI-6 secret agent. Come sundown, he swallows a pharmacy of psychoactive pills, gulps three black coffees loaded with sugar, and roams the streets of Washington, D.C., in a battered cab, where, disguised as a black man, he rolls dice to determine which among his black female fares he—ll murder. Afterwards he dumps his naked victims in crime-infested back alleys of black- slum neighborhoods, then sends e-mails boasting of his accomplishments to three other former MI-6 agents involved in a hellish Internet role-playing game. “I sensed I was at the start of another homicide mess,” sighs forensic-psychologist turned homicide-detective Alex Cross. Cross yearns to catch the “Jane Doe murderer” but is thwarted by Det. Chief George Pittman, who assigns sexy Det. Patsy Hampton to investigate Cross and come up with a reason for dismissing him. Meanwhile, Cross’s fiancÇe is kidnaped during a Bermuda vacation, and an anonymous e-mail warns him to back off. He doesn’t, of course, and just when it appears that Patterson is sleep-walking through his story, Cross nabs Shafer minutes after Shafer kills Det. Hampton. During the subsequent high-visibility trail, Shafer manages to make the jury believe that he’s innocent and that Cross was trying to frame him. When all seems lost, a sympathetic British intelligence chief offers to help Cross bring down Shafer, and the other homicidal game-players, during a showdown on the breezy beaches of Jamaica. Kinky mayhem, a cartoonish villain, regular glimpses of the kindly Cross caring for his loved ones, and an ending that spells a sequel: Patterson’s fans couldn’t ask for more.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 1999

ISBN: 0-316-69328-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1999

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