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Muir's Gambit


This smashing espionage tale kicks off what promises to be a smart, indelible series.

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In this debut novel, a CIA attorney tries to elicit a murder confession from the man who recruited him into the agency.

When a bomb blows up Charlie March and his yacht in 1991, the dying CIA officer in his last few words utters the name Nathan. The agency quickly sends legal counsel Russell Aiken to interview Nathan Muir at the Florida island home he rents every September. The two men have a strong connection: Muir recruited Aiken years ago. As for March, he recruited Muir from the Marine Corps in 1950s South Korea. Muir, who claims he didn’t kill March, talks about working for his mentor, including hunting a spy in Korea. Yet Muir’s history teems with sordid details and secrets, from his reputed discovery that March had “gone bad” to his fallout with Tom Bishop, another CIA recruit and field officer. But it turns out that Aiken has also been involved in some unsavory deeds, such as using his skills to help Muir jump legal hurdles. As Muir’s decadeslong chronology inches closer to what Aiken hopes is a confession, the CIA operations officer has a bevy of surprises for the attorney. TV/film writer Beckner’s riveting series opener takes characters from a Hollywood script he penned—the Tony Scott–directed Spy Game (2001). The author packs this epic narrative with plot turns and real-world events, such as the Tiananmen Square demonstrations. The cast is also multilayered, especially Muir, Aiken, and Bishop. Aiken, for example, has struggled with alcoholism and just found out his wife is cheating on him. The novel, primarily encompassing the crucial interview, is relentlessly tense, as Muir knows things that should stay hush-hush and certainly tells lies at least some of the time. He’s both debonair and chilling and drops such memorable one-liners as “We’d go where the Cold War blows.” The open ending offers a thorough resolution as well as more than one shocker.

This smashing espionage tale kicks off what promises to be a smart, indelible series.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2022

ISBN: 979-8985597400

Page Count: 404

Publisher: Montrose Station Press LLC

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2022

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If you love good crime writing but aren’t familiar with Winslow’s work, read this trilogy in order.

The dramatic conclusion to the trilogy about two New England crime families begun in City on Fire (2022) and City of Dreams (2023).

Near the end of his journey, multimillionaire Danny Ryan watches a casino implode in a mushroom cloud of dust and muses about his life’s implosions: “The cancer that killed his wife, the depression that destroyed his love, the moral rot that took his soul.” Danny is from Providence, Rhode Island, and desperately tried to leave his criminal life behind him. But using a ton of ill-gotten gains, he invests heavily in Las Vegas properties. Congress is conducting an investigation into gambling that could destroy his casino business and even land him in jail. An FBI agent plans to take Danny down for major sins he’d like to repent for. Meanwhile, can he make peace with his enemies? Nope, doesn’t look like it. Even if the parties involved want to put the past behind them, the trouble is that they don’t trust each other. Is Vern Winegard setting Dan up? Is Dan setting Vern up? “Trust? Trust is children waiting for Santa Claus.” So what could have been a “Kumbaya,” nobody-wants-to-read-this story turns into a grisly bloodletting filled with language that would set Sister Mary Margaret’s wimple on fire—figuratively speaking, as she’s not in the book. But the Catholic reference is appropriate: Two of the many colorful characters of ill repute are known as the Altar Boys, serving “Last Communion” to their victims. On the law-abiding side and out of the line of fire is an ex-nun-turned-prosecutor nicknamed Attila the Nun, who’s determined to bring justice for a gory matricide. (Rhode Island really had such a person, by the way.) Finally, the prose is just fun: A friend warns Dan about Allie Licata: “In a world of sick fucks, even the sick fucks think Licata’s a sick fuck.” A couple of things to note: This not only ends the trilogy, but it also closes out the author’s career, as he has said he’ll write no more novels.

If you love good crime writing but aren’t familiar with Winslow’s work, read this trilogy in order.

Pub Date: April 2, 2024

ISBN: 9780063079472

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2024

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As an adjunct member says, “You’re not a family, you’re a force.” Exactly, though not in the way you’d expect.

The ne’er-do-well son of a successful Irish American family gets dragged into criminal complications that suggest the rest of the Devlins aren’t exactly the upstanding citizens they appear.

The first 35 years in the life of Thomas “TJ” Devlin have been one disappointment after another to his parents, lawyers who founded a prosperous insurance and reinsurance firm, and his more successful siblings, John and Gabby. A longtime alcoholic who’s been unemployable ever since he did time for an incident involving his ex-girlfriend Carrie’s then 2-year-old daughter, TJ is nominally an investigator for Devlin & Devlin, but everyone knows the post is a sinecure. Things change dramatically when golden-boy John tells TJ that he just killed Neil Lemaire, an accountant for D&D client Runstan Electronics. Their speedy return to the murder scene reveals no corpse, so the brothers breathe easier—until Lemaire turns up shot to death in his car. John’s way of avoiding anything that might jeopardize his status as heir apparent to D&D is to throw TJ under the bus, blaming him for everything John himself has done and adding that you can’t trust anything his brother has said since he’s fallen off the wagon. TJ, who’s maintained his sobriety a day at a time for nearly two years, feels outraged, but neither the police investigating the murder nor his nearest and dearest care about his feelings. Forget the forgettable mystery, whose solution will leave you shrugging instead of gasping, and focus on the circular firing squad of the Devlins, and you’ll have a much better time than TJ.

As an adjunct member says, “You’re not a family, you’re a force.” Exactly, though not in the way you’d expect.

Pub Date: March 26, 2024

ISBN: 9780525539704

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2024

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