An enjoyably multilayered blending of supernatural fiction and art heist thriller.

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KEY TO ETERNITY

A psychic and a special agent team up to solve an art theft mystery in a thriller with dark supernatural overtones.

Private investigator Maro Gaido, the brooding, sullen ex–FBI agent who’s one of the two stars of the latest novel from O’Connor (Epiphany's Gift, 2019), is obsessed with tracking down and retrieving the thousands of priceless artifacts looted from the Baghdad Museum during the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. In his capacity as a PI assigned to the FBI’s art theft team, Gaido has hunted thieves and identified buyers all over the world, aided by his fluency in Japanese, Italian, French, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, and Farsi. But as the novel opens, he feels he’s reached a dead end and devises a last-ditch tactic: He contacts Epiphany Mayall, a former colleague (and maybe something more) who works as a psychic medium in Watoolahatchee, Florida, whose “small Spiritualist community” bills itself as the “Psychic Capital of the World.” The contact seems more the coincidental: Just recently, Mayall had highly detailed dreams that she realized were visions of the looting of the Baghdad Museum. She hadn’t known what to make of the dreams, and her consultation with her spirit guide suggested that Gaido might be involved. Mayall is at times ambivalent about her own psychic abilities: “Sometimes she just wanted it all to go away—for the voices to fall silent, the images [to] fade to black. To stop being a conduit between the living and the dead.” But she agrees to help Gaido in an investigation that soon involves the thoroughly evil and nihilistic energy company CEO Derrick Rarian, who has motives of his own for recovering certain looted artifacts—motives that have much more to do with Mayall’s supernatural realm than Gaido’s world of the black market for art. O’Connor handles the nuances of their relationship with a pleasing combination of humor and maturity, and this is also true for the dynamic of Mayall's extended family. The book’s thriller elements are somewhat predictable, but the writing throughout is clear and energetic.

An enjoyably multilayered blending of supernatural fiction and art heist thriller.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Manuscript

Review Posted Online: Feb. 11, 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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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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