Somehow, Greaney cranks out one winner after another. That’s a lot of work for the Gray Man and plenty of pleasure for...

AGENT IN PLACE

Seventh in the high-powered Gray Man series (Gunmetal Gray, 2017, etc.).

The Islamic State group is about to execute Courtland Gentry—the Gray Man—and leave his body floating with others in a bloody lake. Then the story backs up a week to show how he got into this unholy mess. Gentry is ex-CIA, now an assassin for hire. He meets in Paris with Dr. Tarek Halaby, head of the Free Syria Exile Union, or what’s left of it. All the brave members are dead, Halaby says, and he jokes that perhaps Gentry would like to kill the Syrian president for him. “A mission into Syria,” they both agree, is “a fool’s errand.” Which naturally means he'll go there. Halaby hires him to rescue the model Bianca Medina from an imminent IS attack, part of a plan that Halaby hopes will "deal a serious blow to the Syrian regime and hasten the end" of the cruel civil war. A stunning beauty who’s protected by bodyguards in a Paris hotel, Medina is the lover of Ahmed al-Azzam, the brutal Syrian president and “most horrible man in the world"—and also, as she tells Halaby after Gentry brings her back to his safe house, she's secretly the mother of Jamal, Azzam's only son. Azzam’s wife, Shakira, aka “the First Lady of Hell,” knows about Bianca and wants her dead. (Thus the IS attack, which she manipulated.) Halaby isn't sure if Shakira knows about Jamal (she does), but he's sure she'll kill the boy if she does. Bianca is itching to return to Syria to be with Jamal, who's been left behind with a bodyguard, but Gentry, against his own better judgment, agrees to go get him. If there’s “one shot in hell” to snatch the child from the evil dad, “that shot was the Gray Man," a sharpshooter who will gladly kill Azzam if only he can get close enough. So, as anyone who follows the series knows, plenty of blood spills. Whether any of that blood is Assad's—oops, Azzam's—is for the reader to find out. Court Gentry claims to kill only for cash, yet he mostly nails just the bad guys—deep down, he has a moral code. Readers of the great Tom Clancy will salivate over this fast-moving and well-plotted yarn, which is part of a consistently appealing series in which each assignment is billed as the most dangerous ever.

Somehow, Greaney cranks out one winner after another. That’s a lot of work for the Gray Man and plenty of pleasure for thriller fans.

Pub Date: Feb. 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-451-48890-9

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Dec. 12, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2018

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Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless...

SPLIT SECOND

Two defrocked Secret Service Agents investigate the assassination of one presidential candidate and the kidnapping of another.

Baldacci (The Christmas Train, 2002, etc.) sets out with two plot strands. The first begins when something distracts Secret Service Agent Sean King and during that “split second,” presidential candidate Clyde Ritter is shot dead. King takes out the killer, but that’s not enough to save his reputation with the Secret Service. He retires and goes on to do often tedious but nonetheless always lucrative work (much like a legal thriller such as this) at a law practice. Plot two begins eight years later when another Secret Service Agent, Michelle Maxwell, lets presidential candidate John Bruno out of her sight for a few minutes at a wake for one of his close associates. He goes missing. Now Maxwell, too, gets in dutch with the SS. Though separated by time, the cases are similar and leave several questions unanswered. What distracted King at the rally? Bruno had claimed his friend’s widow called him to the funeral home. The widow (one of the few characters here to have any life) says she never called Bruno. Who set him up? Who did a chambermaid at Ritter’s hotel blackmail? And who is the man in the Buick shadowing King’s and Maxwell’s every move? King is a handsome, rich divorce, Maxwell an attractive marathon runner. Will they join forces and find each other kind of, well, appealing? But of course. The two former agents traverse the countryside, spinning endless hypotheses before the onset, at last, of a jerrybuilt conclusion that begs credibility and offers few surprises.

Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless concoction.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2003

ISBN: 0-446-53089-1

Page Count: 406

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2003

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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