An overdose of subplots blunts the impact of the main event.

St. Denis chief of police Bruno Courreges helps his mentor solve a case that’s puzzled him for decades.

Chief Detective Jalipeau, known to his closest friends as J-J, keeps a skull on his desk in the South of France. Not as a memento mori but as a reminder that as far as he’s risen, there’s still one case—his first—that he’s been unable to solve. Then Bruno gets a brain wave. While looking at displays of Neanderthals in the local museum, he wonders: Why can’t whoever restored these primitive folk help J-J reconstruct Oscar, as he calls his bony souvenir? Bruno tracks down anthropologist Elisabeth Daynès, who recommends Virginie, a graduate student who’s ready for a new challenge. While Virginie is hard at work re-creating Oscar’s musculature, Bruno has a second idea. Why not trace Oscar’s DNA through modern data banks? He quickly gets a hit and just as quickly hits a wall. Oscar had a son, a soldier named Louis Castignac, who was recently killed in action in Mali. As Castignac’s half sister, Sabine, who happens to be a gendarme, helps Bruno try to figure out who her brother's biological father was, Bruno deals with a host of other entanglements. His cousin Alain is getting married. His basset hound, Balzac, has just sired a litter, and he wants to choose two perfect homes for the puppies he will receive as a stud fee. His journalist friends Gilles and Jacqueline have caused a stir by publishing articles about the Rosenholz dossier, a secret document containing names of French agents who worked for the Stasi. Perhaps most urgent, drought has threatened St. Denis with wildfires, and Bruno must band together with the other villagers to protect their farms and their homes.

An overdose of subplots blunts the impact of the main event.

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-525-65667-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021


Speculators who haven’t been put off by bitcoin’s recent crash will enjoy this walk—well, run—on the wild side.

Cotton Malone, who just can’t stay retired from international intrigue, joins the mad dance of competitors for a fortune in bitcoin.

So many people have forgotten about the horde of gold the retreating Japanese hid on Luzon Island in the Philippines that it’s not at all clear who has legal title to it. That’s perfect for Robert Citrone, the retired CIA overseer of the Black Eagle Trust, which has used the gold to fund covert operations around the world. Just as Derrick Koger, the European station chief for the CIA, is pulling Malone away from his Copenhagen bookstore to help him investigate possible misdeeds swirling around Luxembourg’s Bank of St. George and its ruthless chief operating officer, Catherine Gledhill, other interested parties turn up in often surprising connections. Freelance assassin Kyra Lhota executes Armenian oligarch Samvel Yerevan and moves on to her next target. Malone’s sometime lover Cassiopeia Vitt is snatched by high-ranking Japanese security chief Aiko Ejima. His former lover Suzy Baldwin resurfaces as Kelly Austin, BSG’s director of special technology, who’s concealing secrets from Malone and the rest of the world. They’re all on the trail of a fabulous cache of bitcoin that in the absence of any legal records of ownership will belong, like the Luzon gold, to anyone who can track it down and grab it. The grandly scaled complications that follow feature countless broken alliances and the deaths of a fearsome number of nonfranchise characters. An extended author’s note explains what’s historically accurate (quite a bit, as it turns out) and what’s fabricated (quite a bit more).

Speculators who haven’t been put off by bitcoin’s recent crash will enjoy this walk—well, run—on the wild side.

Pub Date: Feb. 20, 2024

ISBN: 9781538721032

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2024


Intrigue, murder, and vengeance make for a darkly enjoyable read.

A woman’s life takes a stunning turn and a wall comes tumbling down in this tense Cold War spy drama.

In Berlin in 1989, the wall is about to crumble, and Anne Simpson’s husband, Stefan Koehler, goes missing. She is a translator working with refugees from the communist bloc, and he is a piano tuner who travels around Europe with orchestras. Or so he claims. German intelligence service the BND and America’s CIA bring her in for questioning, wrongly thinking she’s protecting him. Soon she begins to learn more about Stefan, whom she had met in the Netherlands a few years ago. She realizes he’s a “gregarious musician with easy charm who collected friends like a beachcomber collects shells, keeping a few, discarding most.” Police find his wallet in a canal and his prized zither in nearby bushes but not his body. Has he been murdered? What’s going on? And why does the BND care? If Stefan is alive, he’s in deep trouble, because he’s believed to be working for the Stasi. She’s told “the dead have a way of showing up. It is only the living who hide.” And she’s quite believable when she wonders, “Can you grieve for someone who betrayed you?” Smart and observant, she notes that the reaction by one of her interrogators is “as false as his toupee. Obvious, uncalled for, and easily put on.” Lurking behind the scenes is the Matchmaker, who specializes in finding women—“American. Divorced. Unhappy,” and possibly having access to Western secrets—who will fall for one of his Romeos. Anne is the perfect fit. “The matchmaker turned love into tradecraft,” a CIA agent tells her. But espionage is an amoral business where duty trumps decency, and “deploring the morality of spies is like deploring violence in boxers.” It’s a sentiment John le Carré would have endorsed, but Anne may have the final word.

Intrigue, murder, and vengeance make for a darkly enjoyable read.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-64313-865-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pegasus Crime

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022

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