Admirably ambitious and with a terrorist plot that isn’t the same old, same old.

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MISSIONS

A devastating terrorist bombing in Paris sparks a joint French-American investigation with conflicting methods and agendas in this debut thriller.

McGuire instantly sets an indelibly grisly and chaotic scene: the aftermath of two savage explosions—several minutes apart—of unprecedented magnitude. Enter Christine Dupont, who works for the French version of the FBI and CIA combined. But the CIA wants in on the investigation. “We have an interest here too,” she is told. “We can stay in the background, but we would like to be closely involved.” As the investigation progresses, the author shifts perspectives among the story’s good and bad actors. Among the former is 29-year-old Doyle O’Gara, who has just started a job in the Washington office of a security firm and is “excited to be joining the fight, no matter how small or peripheral his role might turn out to be.” Among the latter is Mohammed Jamal, who is portrayed with more depth than the usual villain in such cases. (“He had not intended there to be so many bodies.”) Terrorist plots and the race against time to foil possible imminent attacks are at this point reliable tropes for action fans, but McGuire heightens suspense by juggling several timelines. Chapters are subtitled “Six months before the attack,” “First day of the investigation,” “One month after the Paris attack,” and so on. O’Gara’s character gets muddied as the story progresses. He is dismissed at one point as “a marginal character, a techie.” But at another point, he himself reflects how his company duties “had been growing, rather rapidly it had seemed to him at the time.” Things aren’t made any clearer by this sentence: “He had not foreseen that he would play such a central role, albeit a minor one, in the investigation that swiftly followed.” Readers may either be disappointed or impressed by how the author subverts expectations for Jack Ryan–like heroics. Dupont, though, has the right stuff to carry a franchise of espionage adventures.

Admirably ambitious and with a terrorist plot that isn’t the same old, same old.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Manuscript

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2020

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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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