Middling among the distinguished author’s score of thrillers. New fans hooked by this one will be happy to know that his...

THE SCARECROW

Downsized from the Los Angeles Times, crime reporter Jack McEvoy decides to ride one last big story to the moon.

There’s no mystery about who suffocated stripper Denise Babbit and stuffed her corpse into the trunk of her car, since Alonzo Winslow, 16, confessed to the murder after the LAPD found his fingerprint on the car’s mirror. But when Alonzo’s mother—or maybe it’s his grandmother, or both—nags just-fired Jack to look into the case, he quickly realizes that Alonzo’s confession isn’t a confession at all. And Angela Cook, the twinkie barracuda Jack’s been asked to groom as his replacement, alerts him to the earlier murder of Las Vegas showgirl Sharon Oglevy that has all the earmarks of this one, even though her ex-husband’s already locked up for it. Clearly there’s a serial killer at work, and clearly, though Jack doesn’t realize it, it’s Wesley Carver, a computer-security expert whose ability to track everyone on earth through cyberspace makes him uniquely sensitive to who might be on his case, and uniquely empowered to neutralize them. After losing his bank balance and his credit cards to identity theft, however, Jack is rescued by Rachel Walling, the FBI agent whose torrid affair with him enlivened his last big story (The Poet, 1996). The ensuing cat-and-mouse game, duly played out in chapters alternately presented from the viewpoints of Jack and Carver, is accomplished but not especially suspenseful for readers who’ve seen it before. Despite his cyber-powers, Carver isn’t an especially scary villain, nor does Jack shine as a sleuth. But Connelly (The Brass Verdict, 2008, etc.), who’s nothing if not professional, keeps the twists coming and provides column-inches of background expertise—perhaps more than the story needs—on the hard business of hard news and a realistic preview of Jack’s likely fate.

Middling among the distinguished author’s score of thrillers. New fans hooked by this one will be happy to know that his backlist is even richer.

Pub Date: May 26, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-316-16630-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2009

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This is fast-paced, nonstop fun. Cussler fans will gobble it up.

JOURNEY OF THE PHARAOHS

Rumors of lost Egyptian treasure spark high adventure in this 17th in the NUMA series featuring oceanographer Kurt Austin and his crew (Sea of Greed, 2018, etc.).

Over 3,000 years ago, grave robbers sail away with loot from a pharaoh’s tomb. In 1927, Jake Melbourne and his plane disappear in his attempt at a trans-Atlantic flight. In the present day, arms merchants known as the Bloodstone Group have taken to stealing antiquities. They are looking for a “treasure both vast and glorious” that hieroglyphics say was shipped down the Nile and out of Egypt, perhaps even west across the Atlantic. (Holy scurvy! That must’ve been a lot of hard rowing!) The criminals are known to MI5 as “very dangerous people" and "merchants selling death.” Perfectly willing to kill everyone in their way, they are aided by mechanical crows and Fydor and Xandra, nasty sibling assassins jointly called the Toymaker. Such are the foes faced by Austin and his team from the National Underwater and Marine Agency. Of course, Austin has no interest in profit; he will gladly leave the ancient riches wherever they are. Action arrives early and often, and the failed pre-Lindbergh flight fits in neatly. Cussler and Brown concoct a nifty plot with disparate, sometimes over-the-top twists that will make even hardcore adventure fans say “Wow!” Expect claustrophobic gunfights, aerial combat, a life-threatening flood, messages from the dead, coffins of gold—and a vintage classic car, because why not? “We’re going to steal the greatest deposit of Egyptian treasure the world has ever known,” brags the evil mastermind. But he’ll have to climb over the series hero’s dead body first, which—no plot spoiler here—ain’t gonna happen.

This is fast-paced, nonstop fun. Cussler fans will gobble it up.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-08308-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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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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