Not for the squeamish but a jolt for thriller junkies.

RELENTLESS

The 10th installment in the Gray Man series begins with a dent in the hero’s armor and revs up with nonstop action.

Court Gentry, aka the Gray Man, is recovering from a stab wound, and he really needs to get some rest. He’s tired and badly weakened, not yet fit for operational duty, but the CIA’s off-the-books contract killer is “wholly unaccustomed to free time.” Soon he’s in Caracas, trying to spring his comrade in arms Zack Hightower from a Venezuelan prison. Then he’s off to Germany to deal with a possible coordinated attack on Americans in Berlin. Gentry, whose CIA code name is Violator, is that rare killer with a heart, so he takes only “righteous and worthy” assignments and does them right. His CIA boss congratulates him on one assassination, saying “You put a warhead on his forehead.” Gentry’s in love with Zoya Zakharova, a field operative also working for the CIA, but gunning down bad guys keeps both too busy for a meaningful relationship. Meanwhile, a sultan in the United Arab Emirates can hardly wait for his father to die of cancer, and an Iranian Quds sleeper agent plots mayhem in Berlin. Evildoers abound in this bloody thriller, including Americans. But the star of the scum is Maksim Akulov, who works for the Russian Mafia and whose target is Zakharova. Think of Akulov as the Gray Man without the moral compass. The title aptly fits the plot, as the hero scarcely takes a breather. There’s enough bloodshed to pour into two thrillers, and author Greaney doesn’t spare the good guys. Gentry’s body is “racked with pain and exhaustion” much of the time, but he is relentless. And Zack gets more than scratched while he thinks that “fighting a robot attack would be one badass way to go.”

Not for the squeamish but a jolt for thriller junkies.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-09895-0

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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Well-done crime fiction. Baldacci nails the noir.

DREAM TOWN

An old-fashioned gumshoe yarn about Hollywood dreams and dead bodies.

Private investigator Aloysius Archer celebrates New Year’s Eve 1952 in LA with his gorgeous lady friend and aspiring actress Liberty Callahan. Screenwriter Eleanor Lamb shows up and offers to hire him because “someone might be trying to kill me.” “I’m fifty a day plus expenses,” he replies, but money’s no obstacle. Later, he sneaks into Lamb’s house and stumbles upon a body, then gets knocked out by an unseen assailant. Archer takes plenty of physical abuse in the story, but at least he doesn’t get a bullet between the eyes like the guy he trips over. A 30-year-old World War II combat veteran, Archer is a righteous and brave hero. Luck and grit keep him alive in both Vegas and the City of Angels, which is rife with gangsters and crooked cops. Not rich at all, his one luxury is the blood-red 1939 Delahaye he likes to drive with the top down. He’d bought it with his gambling winnings in Reno, and only a bullet hole in the windscreen post mars its perfection. Liberty loves Archer, but will she put up with the daily danger of losing him? Why doesn’t he get a safe job, maybe playing one of LA’s finest on the hit TV show Dragnet? Instead, he’s a tough and principled idealist who wants to make the world a better place. Either that or he’s simply a “pavement-pounding PI on a slow dance to maybe nowhere.” And if some goon doesn’t do him in sooner, his Lucky Strikes will probably do him in later. Baldacci paints a vivid picture of the not-so-distant era when everybody smoked, Joe McCarthy hunted commies, and Marilyn Monroe stirred men’s loins. The 1950s weren’t the fabled good old days, but they’re fodder for gritty crime stories of high ideals and lowlifes, of longing and disappointment, and all the trouble a PI can handle.

Well-done crime fiction. Baldacci nails the noir.

Pub Date: April 19, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5387-1977-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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Perhaps A-list screenwriters will be able to spin TV gold from this sketchy treatment.

THE LIONESS

An actress and her entourage are kidnapped by Russians in Bohjalian’s uneven thriller.

In 1964, Hollywood’s gossip rags are agog as movie star Katie Barstow marries gallerist David Hill and takes her inner circle along on her honeymoon. And an adventuresome honeymoon it is—on safari in the Serengeti with aging big-game hunter Charlie Patton, who once helped Hemingway bag trophies. But Katie is not the star of this ensemble piece. The populous cast—a who’s who at the beginning is indispensable—includes Katie’s publicist, Reggie Stout; her agent, Peter Merrick; her best friend, Carmen Tedesco, a supporting actress who plays wisecracking sidekicks; and Terrance Dutton, Katie's recent co-star, a Black actor who's challenging Sidney Poitier's singularity in Hollywood. With obvious nods to Hemingway’s worst fear—masculine cowardice—Bohjalian adds in Felix Demeter, Carmen’s husband, a B-list screenwriter who reminds his wife of Hemingway’s weakling Francis Macomber. Felix seems a superfluous double of David, who feels inadequate because Katie is the breadwinner and his father is CIA. Then there’s Katie’s older brother, Billy Stepanov, whose abuse at the hands of their mother shaped the psychologist he is today; Billy’s pregnant wife, Margie; and Benjamin Kikwete, an apprentice safari guide. Thus, a proliferation of voices whose competing perspectives fragment rather than advance the story. The kidnapping plot seems less designed to test each character’s mettle than to exercise Bohjalian’s predilection for minute descriptions of gore. The most heartfelt portrayal here is of the Serengeti and its flora and fauna, but none of the human characters net enough face time to transcend their typecasting. The motives behind the kidnapping might have lent intrigue to the proceedings, but foreshadowing is so slight that the infodump explainer at the end leaves us shocked, mostly at how haphazard the plot is.

Perhaps A-list screenwriters will be able to spin TV gold from this sketchy treatment.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-385-54482-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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