Rader-Day (The Day I Died, 2017, etc.) juices her young-widow setup with enough soul-searching, menace, and dirty linen to...

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UNDER A DARK SKY

A recent widow confronts her demons and a whole lot more during a trip to the Michigan wilderness.

Eden Wallace has always been afraid of the dark, but that didn’t stop her husband, Army veteran Bix Wallace, from booking a cabin in Michigan’s Straits Point International Dark Sky Park to mark their 10th anniversary. Ironically, Bix misses the celebration when his drunken driving ends his life, along with those of four others, nine months before the big day; it’s not till after his death that Eden even learns of the reservation. Even worse, when she arrives at Dark Sky Park, she realizes that Bix, whether deliberately or not, didn’t book the whole cabin, only a suite in a building she’ll be sharing with five college chums and the new girlfriend of one of them. Dev, Paris, Sam, and Martha all make it clear that they’d love to see Eden leave. Only Malloy and Hillary, his new girlfriend, make any gestures of friendship, and those are cut in half when Eden’s awakened by a scream that pulls her to the kitchen, where Malloy is lying dead, a screwdriver in his neck. Since there’s no chance that his demise was accidental, his old buddies instantly fall to accusing each other as well as Hillary and Eden, the newcomers who’ve crashed their circle. The questions posed by Park Director Warren Hoyt, Emmet County Sheriff Jeffrey Barrows, and Officer Bridget Cooley will all play a role in determining whodunit, but not before another participant in the reunion takes a header down the stairs, still another is poisoned, and Eden, still grieving the death of her husband, realizes that she has a previous connection to the group she’s been thrown into that’s both unwelcome and ugly.

Rader-Day (The Day I Died, 2017, etc.) juices her young-widow setup with enough soul-searching, menace, and dirty linen to make you think of Mary Higgins Clark with teeth bared.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-256030-8

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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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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