The plot is sound, the action exciting, and the characters resoundingly human.

THE WONDER TEST

International spydom meets cutthroat suburban elitism.

After the sudden death of her husband, FBI agent Lina Connerly temporarily moves with her teenage son across the country to Northern California. Her father has also died recently, and she figures she can deal with his house while Rory attends the local public school, giving them both a change of scenery after having lost Fred. The school has all the markers of affluent suburban America: overly involved parents, a ridiculous endowment, and the Wonder Test, an extreme standardized test taken by all the schools in Silicon Valley. Studying such esoteric categories as “Ethicalities” and “Future Functionalities,” students don’t attend any real classes but instead spend all of their time taking seminars that will prepare them for the test. Lina isn’t overly concerned about the school's eccentricities, but when she hears that three students have gone missing in past years only to reappear a week later, underfed and with their heads shaved, her spider sense begins to tingle. Having spent her FBI career in foreign counterintelligence, she can’t resist a mystery. Between pinging phones, following suspects, and staging interrogations, Lina eventually approaches the truth—and danger. When Rory’s girlfriend disappears on the eve of the Wonder Test, Lina and Rory must find her. Appealingly, all of this happens as Lina navigates her own grief, comes to terms with the way she has allowed her job to consume her, and faces the fact that Rory shares her interest in intrigue. The overlay of international spycraft on suburban California, whose shiny facade conceals the most heinous of sins and vanities, is surprisingly effective. Richmond also has fun by including a question from the Wonder Test at the beginning of each chapter, emphasizing the ridiculously competitive world of affluent high schools.

The plot is sound, the action exciting, and the characters resoundingly human.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8021-5850-5

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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Generations may succeed generations, but Sandford’s patented investigation/action formula hasn’t aged a whit. Bring it on.

THE INVESTIGATOR

A domestic-terrorist plot gives the adopted daughter of storied U.S. Marshal Lucas Davenport her moment to shine.

Veteran oilman Vermilion Wright knows that losing a few thousand gallons of crude is no more than an accounting error to his company but could mean serious money to whomever’s found a way to siphon it off from wells in Texas’ Permian Basin. So he asks Sen. Christopher Colles, Chair of Homeland Security and Government Affairs, to look into it, and Colles persuades 24-year-old Letty Davenport, who’s just quit his employ, to return and partner with Department of Homeland Security agent John Kaiser to track down the thieves. The plot that right-winger Jane Jael Hawkes and her confederates, most of them service veterans with disgruntled attitudes and excellent military skills, have hatched is more dire than anything Wright could have imagined. They plan to use the proceeds from the oil thefts to purchase some black-market C4 essential to a major act of terrorism that will simultaneously express their alarm about the country’s hospitality to illegal immigrants and put the Jael-Birds on the map for good. But they haven’t reckoned with Letty, another kid born on the wrong side of the tracks who can outshoot the men she’s paired with and outthink the vigilantes she finds herself facing—and who, along with her adoptive father, makes a memorable pair of “pragmatists. Really harsh pragmatists” willing to do whatever needs doing without batting an eye or losing a night’s sleep afterward.

Generations may succeed generations, but Sandford’s patented investigation/action formula hasn’t aged a whit. Bring it on.

Pub Date: April 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-32868-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2022

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A bracing test of the maxim that “the department always comes first. The department always wins.”

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THE DARK HOURS

Meet today’s LAPD, with both good and bad apples reduced to reacting to crimes defensively instead of trying to prevent them, unless of course they’re willing to break the rules.

New Year’s Eve 2020 finds Detective Renée Ballard, survivor of rape and Covid-19, partnered with Detective Lisa Moore, of Hollywood’s Sexual Assault Unit, in search of leads on the Midnight Men, a tag team of rapists who assaulted women on Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve without leaving any forensic evidence behind. The pair are called to the scene of a shooting that would have gone to West Bureau Homicide if the unit weren’t already stretched to the limit, a case that should be handed over to West Bureau ASAP. But Ballard gets her teeth into the murder of body shop owner Javier Raffa, who reportedly bought his way out of the gang Las Palmas. The news that Raffa’s been shot by the same weapon that killed rapper Albert Lee 10 years ago sends Ballard once more to Harry Bosch, the poster boy for retirements that drive the LAPD crazy. Both victims had taken on silent partners in order to liquidate their debts, and there’s every indication that the partners were linked. That’s enough for Ballard and Bosch to launch a shadow investigation even as Ballard, abandoned by Moore, who’s flown the coop for the weekend, works feverishly to identify the Midnight Men on her own. As usual in this stellar series, the path to the last act is paved with false leads, interdepartmental squabbles, and personal betrayals, and the structure sometimes sways in the breeze. But no one who follows Ballard and Bosch to the end will be disappointed.

A bracing test of the maxim that “the department always comes first. The department always wins.”

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-48564-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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