A flawed but intelligently entertaining mystery.

THE GOLDEN PEACOCK

A successful author chasing a story becomes drawn into a perilous search for a former Nazi in this novel.

Rainee Allen’s fiction debut is a bestseller and lands her a new book deal and a substantial advance. But she’s stuck in a creative drought, unable to come up with her next big idea and worried her success was a fluke. Then she stumbles on the identification card of Holocaust survivor Jana Lutken, which was given to her when she visited a museum in Washington, D.C., years earlier. She notes that she shares a birthday with Jana, separated by 30 years, and is inspired to track her down. By a stroke of luck, her best friend, Shelley, is sent to London for a work assignment, and Rainee tags along, hoping to discover Jana there. The writer eventually finds Jana in a nursing facility, her last name now Bowman as the result of marriage, alone and addled by Alzheimer’s. Rainee notices that Jana is frozen with terror when a physician, Dr. Wagner, is in her presence and decides to conduct her own private investigation, eventually harboring suspicions that he is the son of a Nazi responsible for the sinking of a ship of orphaned children, one that Jana’s brother, Max, was on at the time. The deeper Rainee delves, the more dangerous her inquiries become, and she starts to believe she is being followed by two mysterious men, unsure if they are sent to protect or apprehend Wagner’s father. Grossman (Once in Every Generation, 2011) deftly leaps back and forth in time, simultaneously following Rainee’s journalistic investigation and Jana’s suffering as a result of the war. The author adroitly depicts the degradations Jews were subjected to by their tormentors as well as the inspiring attempt by Jana to transcend her trauma. The writing is clear, if lacking in literary flair, and the pace is invitingly brisk. But Grossman has a weakness for clichéd descriptions—even her protagonist admits that her two enigmatic pursuers seem like characters from a John le Carré novel. In addition, the entire plot hinges on some extraordinary coincidences that will likely challenge readers’ incredulity.

A flawed but intelligently entertaining mystery.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-5118-0739-5

Page Count: 284

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2017

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A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be...

BADLANDS

Box takes another break from his highly successful Joe Pickett series (Stone Cold, 2014, etc.) for a stand-alone about a police detective, a developmentally delayed boy, and a package everyone in North Dakota wants to grab.

Cassandra Dewell can’t leave Montana’s Lewis and Clark County fast enough for her new job as chief investigator for Jon Kirkbride, sheriff of Bakken County. She leaves behind no memories worth keeping: her husband is dead, her boss has made no bones about disliking her, and she’s looking forward to new responsibilities and the higher salary underwritten by North Dakota’s sudden oil boom. But Bakken County has its own issues. For one thing, it’s cold—a whole lot colder than the coldest weather Cassie’s ever imagined. For another, the job she turns out to have been hired for—leading an investigation her new boss doesn’t feel he can entrust to his own force—makes her queasy. The biggest problem, though, is one she doesn’t know about until it slaps her in the face. A fatal car accident that was anything but accidental has jarred loose a stash of methamphetamines and cash that’s become the center of a battle between the Sons of Freedom, Bakken County’s traditional drug sellers, and MS-13, the Salvadorian upstarts who are muscling in on their territory. It’s a setup that leaves scant room for law enforcement officers or for Kyle Westergaard, the 12-year-old paperboy damaged since birth by fetal alcohol syndrome, who’s walked away from the wreck with a prize all too many people would kill for.

A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be welcome to return and tie up the gaping loose end Box leaves. The unrelenting cold makes this the perfect beach read.

Pub Date: July 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-58321-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how...

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THE A LIST

A convicted killer’s list of five people he wants dead runs the gamut from the wife he’s already had murdered to franchise heroine Ali Reynolds.

Back in the day, women came from all over to consult Santa Clarita fertility specialist Dr. Edward Gilchrist. Many of them left his care happily pregnant, never dreaming that the father of the babies they carried was none other than the physician himself, who donated his own sperm rather than that of the handsome, athletic, disease-free men pictured in his scrapbook. When Alexandra Munsey’s son, Evan, is laid low by the kidney disease he’s inherited from his biological father and she returns to Gilchrist in search of the donor’s medical records, the roof begins to fall in on him. By the time it’s done falling, he’s serving a life sentence in Folsom Prison for commissioning the death of his wife, Dawn, the former nurse and sometime egg donor who’d turned on him. With nothing left to lose, Gilchrist tattoos himself with the initials of five people he blames for his fall: Dawn; Leo Manuel Aurelio, the hit man he’d hired to dispose of her; Kaitlyn Todd, the nurse/receptionist who took Dawn’s place; Alex Munsey, whose search for records upset his apple cart; and Ali Reynolds, the TV reporter who’d helped put Alex in touch with the dozen other women who formed the Progeny Project because their children looked just like hers. No matter that Ali’s been out of both California and the news business for years; Gilchrist and his enablers know that revenge can’t possibly be served too cold. Wonder how far down that list they’ll get before Ali, aided once more by Frigg, the methodical but loose-cannon AI first introduced in Duel to the Death (2018), turns on them?

Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how little the boundary-challenged AI, who gets into the case more or less inadvertently, differs from your standard human sidekick with issues.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5101-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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