Connoisseurs of mother love imperiled will prefer Save Me (2011). But it would be a mistake to count Scottoline out; she’s...

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COME HOME

Another stand-alone suspenser that rams home the point that there’s no such thing as an ex-mother.

Pharmaceutical rep William Skyler blamed his divorce on his wife, Dr. Jill Farrow. He told his daughters, Victoria and Abby, that Jill had cheated on him and forbade them to keep in touch with her or her own daughter Megan. Now, three years later, William is dead, overdosed on prescription medications Abby is convinced he didn’t take himself. What’s Jill supposed to do when Abby drives unannounced to the home she shares with diabetes researcher Sam Becker, drunk, weeping hysterically and begging for help? Nothing, maintains Sam, who tells Jill that she’s choosing continuing loyalty to Abby (and to Victoria, who makes it witheringly clear at William’s funeral that she still wants nothing to do with Jill) over her commitment to him and his son Steven. Nothing, say the Philadelphia police, who insist that William’s death was no homicide. Nothing, Jill’s penny-pinching medical-practice manager Sheryl Ewing says—or would surely say if Jill, already playing out a losing hand in office politics, ever brought it up to her. Naturally, Jill, protesting, “What’s a mother, or a stepmother?...Isn’t it forever?,” takes it upon herself to investigate anyway. Scottoline backs her increasingly beset supermom (“It wasn’t a juggling act, it was a magic act”) into sleuthing mode with practiced expertise, giving her exactly the right motivations and qualifications for the specific questions she asks. And there’ll be a lump in every throat when Abby disappears and when Jill fights to diagnose a baby who keeps getting ear infections. As usual with Scottoline, though, the complications are a lot more satisfying than the windup, in which reason and plausibility take a back seat to tearful family affirmations.

Connoisseurs of mother love imperiled will prefer Save Me (2011). But it would be a mistake to count Scottoline out; she’s sure to be back next year with another dose that might be even more potent.

Pub Date: April 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-312-38082-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2012

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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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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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