Approach with an optimistic suspension of disbelief—Elizabeth I in Constantinople investigating murders, really?—and enjoy a...

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THE TOURNAMENT

Oh, to dine with Ignatius de Loyola, Michelangelo, and Roger Ascham, genius Cambridge scholar and royal tutor: the soon-to-be-queen Elizabeth did just that one fine Constantinople afternoon.

The occasion? Suleiman the Magnificent’s legendary 1546 chess tournament, the setting of Reilly’s (Scarecrow Returns, 2012, etc.) intriguing novel, a murder mystery laced with social commentary and spiced by Machiavellian ideas about the art of leadership. Nuggets of history? Reilly delves into the Muslim veil, the Sunni-Shia conflict, and Muslim preservation of classical knowledge during Europe’s Dark Ages. The clever premise takes the form of Elizabeth’s deathbed confession to Gwinny, her lifelong friend and "chief attendant of her bedchamber." The most interesting characters are the princess, "the brightest 13-year-old…and mature beyond her years," and Ascham, "big round nose, hangdog brown eyes," treasuring learning as the "noblest of all endeavors." Suleiman summons the world to the tournament, held in Constantinople’s Hagia Sophia. Henry VIII dispatches Ascham and his chess-master friend, Gilbert Giles. Since plague’s afoot, Ascham persuades Henry to permit Elizabeth, a perilous third in line to the throne, to accompany him, along with Elsie, an older but flighty girl. It’s Elsie who exposes Elizabeth to debauchery's infection within Topkapi Palace: she related "frolicking with the prince—Selim said to me, ‘English rose, you are a lover fit for a king.’ " But it’s Ascham who draws Elizabeth into a mystery he’s charged by Suleiman to solve—the murder of Cardinal Farnese, an anti-Muslim representative of Rome.

Approach with an optimistic suspension of disbelief—Elizabeth I in Constantinople investigating murders, really?—and enjoy a rollicking good yarn.

Pub Date: July 21, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4954-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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Inside this bloated novel is a lean thriller starring a strong and damaged protagonist who's as compelling as Lisbeth...

THE THIRD TO DIE

In Brennan’s (Nothing To Hide, 2019, etc.) new series launch, a hard-edged female LAPD undercover cop and an ambitious FBI special agent race to catch a serial killer before he strikes again.

On paid administrative leave since an incident with a suspect went wrong, a restless Detective Kara Quinn is on an early morning run in her hometown of Liberty Lake, Washington, when she discovers the flayed corpse of a young nurse. In D.C., FBI Special Agent in Charge Mathias Costa is staffing the new Mobile Response Team, designed to cover rural areas underserved by law enforcement, when his boss assigns Matt and analyst Ryder Kim to Liberty Lake. The notorious Triple Killer, who murders three random victims, three days apart, every three years, has returned. With only six days to identify and catch the culprit, and only three days until he kills again, the team is “on a very tight clock.” What should be on-the-edge-of-your-seat suspense turns into a slog marred by pedestrian prose (“she heard nothing except birds chirping…”), a convoluted plot slowed down by a focus on dull bureaucratic infighting, and flat character development. The sole exception is the vividly drawn Kara. Smart, angry, defensive, complicated, she fascinates both the reader and Matt ("Kara Quinn was different—and he couldn’t put his finger on why”).

Inside this bloated novel is a lean thriller starring a strong and damaged protagonist who's as compelling as Lisbeth Salander.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7783-0944-4

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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Sluggish plot hemmed in by too much backstory and going-through-the-motions prose. Not Brown’s best.

WHITE HOT

Lukewarm thriller from bestselling Brown (Hello, Darkness, 2003, etc.).

Sayre Hoyle doesn’t believe her brother Danny committed suicide, and she’s returned home to prove it—but it seems nothing ever changes in Destiny, Louisiana. The small town looks the same as ever, and the same good old boys are sitting in the same vinyl booths at the same diner, conniving and backstabbing and telling lies. Too bad one of them just happens to be Sayre’s daddy, Huff Hoyle. A self-made rich man in a poor parish, he owns a smoke-belching iron foundry, a hellish place that at least provides employment for the beaten-down men of Destiny. If industrial accidents do happen in one of ’em now and then, well, that’s God’s will. Tough-talking Huff don’t want the government OSHA boys anywhere near his foundry, and that goes double for union organizers and other un-American busybodies. Sayre’s heard it all before—and still doesn’t trust either him or her creepy older brother, Chris, who took so much pleasure in tormenting her when they were young. And there’s Huff’s new right-hand man, lawyer Beck Merchant, to contend with. What exactly does Beck stand to gain by his involvement with Huff and cronies? If only he weren’t so good-looking and sexy. . . . Back to the story: Did Slap Watkins, jug-eared, degenerate scion of inbred bayou-dwellers, kill gentleman Danny in a fit of rage when Danny refused to hire Slap’s fellow parolees? Nah. Slap doesn’t have the brains or coordination to kill a June bug. Back to the subplot: Will the tyrannical Huff resort to violence when his ironworkers defy him and go out on strike? And back to the reason Sayre hates Huff: He forced her to have an abortion, performed by an incompetent doctor who tied her, screaming, to the table in his back room. And now for the reason Beck hates Huff . . . .

Sluggish plot hemmed in by too much backstory and going-through-the-motions prose. Not Brown’s best.

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 2004

ISBN: 0-7432-4553-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2004

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