Slight and unimaginative

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HOOKED

Corporate shenanigans drive this erratic suspense novel, Richtel’s debut.

Narrator Nat Idle is a young medical journalist in San Francisco. His greatest professional accomplishment has been an article which led to the conviction of a cop for assaulting a prostitute. His personal accomplishment was snagging Annie Kindle, a dynamic investment banker working for her father, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist; alas, Annie died in a drowning accident four years ago, and Nat still feels the pain. He’s sitting in a café when a woman drops a note on his table telling him to get out. He does; seconds later, the café explodes. The weirdest part is that the note was in Annie’s handwriting. Nat is unhurt, though the explosion killed five people. It’s not a comfort that the investigation is being led by the brother of the cop he’d had convicted. Richtel keeps the pace fast, mixing flashbacks to Annie and her hard-nosed father with Nat’s own sleuthing, aided by Erin, a waitress at the café and another survivor; she appears on the up and up, but has a complicated history involving arson. We get a little bit of everything (romantic interludes, dangerous house fires, mysteriously encrypted computer programs) but not enough of anything; characterizations are paper-thin. Credibility breaks down when Nat’s acupuncture session with Samantha, a New Age healer, is interrupted by two rogue cops looking for a laptop. Next thing you know, they’re subdued by “a blonde with a gun.” They’re not heard from again, and the blonde remains shadowy. Then Nat picks up the phone and hears Annie’s voice; evidently she’d faked her death to avoid SEC and IRS bloodhounds. The rest of the novel has Nat realizing, after encountering her in the flesh, that Annie’s much harder than he’d thought; proof comes during a showdown in Vegas (again, too little detail) as a conspiracy to entrap computer users goes down the tubes.

Slight and unimaginative

Pub Date: June 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-446-58008-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Twelve

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2007

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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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Child builds tension to unbearable extremes, then blows it out in sharply choreographed violence, even if his plot has more...

ECHO BURNING

From the Jack Reacher series , Vol. 5

Smashingly suspenseful fifth in Child’s series (Running Blind, 2000, etc.) lands this British author’s rootless, laconic action hero in southwest Texas, where a femme fatale lures him into a family squabble that inevitably turns violent.

In the kind of daylight-noir setting that Jim Thompson loved, ex-military cop Jack Reacher has his thumb out on a lonely west Texas highway when he’s picked up by Carmine Greer, the Mexican-American wife of bad-ol’-boy Sloop Greer. It seems that Sloop, elder son of a white-trash-turned-oil-rich ranching dynasty, is nearing the end of a prison term for tax evasion, and Carmine, whose body Reacher sees is marked with signs of physical abuse, wants Reacher to be her bodyguard—or, failing that, kill the man in such a way that Carmine can still hold on to her terminally cute six-year-old daughter Ellie. Reacher refuses but decides to meet the folks: Rusty, Sloop’s racist, charmless mother, and Bobby, Sloop’s stupid, pugnacious brother. Meanwhile, a trio of paid assassins is littering the Texas roadside with corpses, starting with Sloop’s lawyer, Al Eugene. In a set-piece as good as anything in Elmore Leonard, Bobby sends two ranch-hands to ambush Reacher at an Abilene roadhouse filled with 20 other cowboys spoiling for a fight. Reacher walks away without a scratch, telling Bobby that his hospitalized ranch-hands have “quit.” Child twists his increasingly hokey plot into a pretzel when Sloop is found dead and Carmine confesses to killing him. Reacher just can’t believe that Carmine is guilty and teams up with Alice Aarons, a leggy Jewish lesbian fresh out of law school, who trusts him with her car, her handgun, and her life.

Child builds tension to unbearable extremes, then blows it out in sharply choreographed violence, even if his plot has more holes in it than the shirt Reacher uses for target practice.

Pub Date: July 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-14726-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2001

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