What looks at first like a sensitive exploration into competing values ends as an exercise in might-is-right. Raphael,...

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ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY LIE

Professor Nick Hoffman (Hot Rocks, 2007, etc.) learns that even tenure can’t guarantee real security.

Fortune has finally smiled at Nick. He’s now a full professor, thanks in no small part to a gift from a former student to Nick’s employer, the State University of Michigan. The bequest, establishing a prestigious speaker’s series, has named Nick the sole administrator of a $25,000 annual grant. While other faculty members are crammed into cubicles, Nick has his own office suite, complete with administrative assistant. He and his partner, SUM’s writer-in-residence Stefan Borowski, along with their West Highland terrier, Marco, live in a splendid center-hall colonial in Michiganapolis, purchased in part with the proceeds from Stefan’s best-selling book about his conversion from Judaism to Catholicism. Stefan’s now at work on a second memoir, Fieldwork in the Land of Grief, about the trauma he sustained when a student he’d accused of plagiarism hanged himself outside Stefan’s office. That trauma, however, is small potatoes compared to Stefan and Nick’s current nightmare. First, their home is invaded by a SWAT team in armed personnel carriers, acting on a vague tip that the pair may be holding someone hostage. Stefan is arrested, strip-searched and jailed. Their boss, Dean Bullerschmidt, threatens to fire them for creating bad publicity. Someone smashes their laptop and leaves road kill on their bed. Their neighbor, whip-smart defense attorney Vanessa Liberati, a New York transplant, offers her help. But their true salvation comes from Stefan’s mentor, Father Ryan Burke, who provides a solution that would gladden the heart of any NRA member.

What looks at first like a sensitive exploration into competing values ends as an exercise in might-is-right. Raphael, co-author of Stick Up for Yourself: Every Kid's Guide to Personal Power & Positive Self-Esteem (1999), should know better.

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-299-30233-7

Page Count: 190

Publisher: Terrace Books/Univ. of Wisconsin Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2014

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Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

CROOKED RIVER

FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast finds evil afoot in his latest action-filled adventure (Verses for the Dead, 2018, etc.).

Imagine Florida beachcombers’ shock when they discover a shoe with a severed foot inside. Soon they see dozens more feet, all in identical shoes, bobbing toward the beach. Police and FBI ultimately count more than a hundred of them washing up on Sanibel and Captiva Islands' tranquil shores. Pendergast teams up with the junior Special Agent Armstrong Coldmoon to investigate this strange phenomenon. Oceanographers use a supercomputer to analyze Gulf currents and attempt to determine where the feet entered the ocean. Were they dumped off a ship or an island? Does each one represent a homicide? Analysts examine chemical residues and pollen, even the angle of each foot’s amputation, but the puzzle defies all explanation. Attention focuses on Cuba, where “something terrible was happening” in front of a coastal prison, and on China, the apparent source of the shoes. The clever plot is “a most baffling case indeed” for the brilliant Pendergast, but it’s the type of problem he thrives on. He’s hardly a stereotypical FBI agent, given for example his lemon-colored silk suit, his Panama hat, and his legendary insistence on working alone—until now. Pendergast rarely blinks—perhaps, someone surmises, he’s part reptile. But equally odd is Constance Greene, his “extraordinarily beautiful,” smart, and sarcastic young “ward” who has “eyes that had seen everything and, as a result, were surprised by nothing.” Coldmoon is more down to earth: part Lakota, part Italian, and “every inch a Fed.” Add in murderous drug dealers, an intrepid newspaper reporter, coyotes crossing the U.S.–Mexico border, and a pissed-off wannabe graphic novelist, and you have a thoroughly entertaining cast of characters. There is plenty of suspense, and the action gets bloody.

Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4725-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

ONE GOOD DEED

Thriller writer Baldacci (A Minute to Midnight, 2019, etc.) launches a new detective series starring World War II combat vet Aloysius Archer.

In 1949, Archer is paroled from Carderock Prison (he was innocent) and must report regularly to his parole officer, Ernestine Crabtree (she’s “damn fine-looking”). Parole terms forbid his visiting bars or loose women, which could become a problem. Trouble starts when businessman Hank Pittleman offers Archer $100 to recover a ’47 Cadillac that’s collateral for a debt owed by Lucas Tuttle, who readily agrees he owes the money. But Tuttle wants his daughter Jackie back—she’s Pittleman’s girlfriend, and she won’t return to Daddy. Archer finds the car, but it’s been torched. With no collateral to collect, he may have to return his hundred bucks. Meanwhile, Crabtree gets Archer the only job available, butchering hogs at the slaughterhouse. He’d killed plenty of men in combat, and now he needs peace. The Pittleman job doesn’t provide that peace, but at least it doesn’t involve bashing hogs’ brains in. People wind up dead and Archer becomes a suspect. So he noses around and shows that he might have the chops to be a good private investigator, a shamus. This is an era when gals have gams, guys say dang and keep extra Lucky Strikes in their hatbands, and a Lady Liberty half-dollar buys a good meal. The dialogue has a '40s noir feel: “And don’t trust nobody.…I don’t care how damn pretty they are.” There’s adult entertainment at the Cat’s Meow, cheap grub at the Checkered Past, and just enough clichés to prove that no one’s highfalutin. Readers will like Archer. He’s a talented man who enjoys detective stories, won’t keep ill-gotten gains, and respects women. All signs suggest a sequel where he hangs out a shamus shingle.

Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5387-5056-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2019

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