A gumshoe with a murky past and a country in peril are prime ingredients of this worthy detective story.




Hartley’s (Lion’s Gate, 2006, etc.) thriller follows a private eye’s simple job of vetting an affluent man’s potential son-in-law—a task that escalates into a murder mystery and a chance to stop a terrorist attack.

PI Ryan Moar, a former cop in North Dakota, is working a case for Carl Ravenstein, a wealthy businessman whose daughter, Tamara, is engaged to Moe Fouzi. Ryan and his wife/partner, Joanna, check up on Moe and find something strange: He doesn’t seem to have a family background. Things take a deadly turn when someone murders both Carl’s ex-wife, Aimée, and a security consultant who was tailing Moe. The two murders, as well as Moe himself, who vanishes, might have a connection to Habib Kadir, a jihadi who’s planning a terrorist strike in America. And Habib has a penchant for blowing up monuments, with his eye firmly set on a much-beloved monument in neighboring South Dakota. Information in the author’s novel comes hard and fast, often beginning with a person being questioned and then, through dialogue, revealing the reason why Ryan or Joanna is there. This creates a stunning pace, cutting to and from scenes at breakneck speed, allowing for the occasional shock: Readers, for instance, learn only later in the story that Ryan and Jacelyn, Carl’s young, coquettish fiancee, have a history. The investigation gets the short end: It’s largely presented by way of the investigators’ interrogations and the resultant conjecture regarding the guilty party’s identity; but Hartley (and the protagonists) knows what should take precedence, as Ryan and Joanna focus their energy on preventing the attack in a searing action sequence near the end. The PI couple’s past, like most of the book’s exposition, is merely touched upon, but what’s there is riveting: They met when Ryan helped Joanna’s son, Gary, who was accused of murder. Hopefully their story, which also includes the murder of Ryan’s first wife, will be further elucidated in the next book, this being the first in a planned series. If all goes well, the sequel will give up on the somewhat disconcerting hint of romantic interest between stepsiblings Gary and Charlene, Ryan’s daughter.

A gumshoe with a murky past and a country in peril are prime ingredients of this worthy detective story.

Pub Date: Aug. 19, 2014

ISBN: 978-1458217240

Page Count: 328

Publisher: AbbottPress

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2014

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.


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...


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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