Another adventure for Caffery, a protagonist much like James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux or Paul Cleave’s Theo Tate, doomed...

WOLF

Hayder (Hanging Hill, 2012, etc.) once again lures DI Jack Caffery into evil’s morass.

Oliver Anchor-Ferrers owns Turrets, an English country estate in Somerset. Arriving with wife Matilda, daughter Lucia and their dog, Bear, Oliver intends to recuperate after heart-valve surgery. While clearing the garden, Matilda discovers a string of intestines "draped almost delicately in the bushes," a discovery mimicking the residue left after a gruesome killing 15 years past. Back then, Lucia’s teenage boyfriend and another girl were murdered and disemboweled. Hayder’s story is complex, with narrative threads leading from the old murder; from the present, as the Anchor-Ferrers are held captive and tortured; and from the muddied mind of Caffery, who stumbles into the murderous affair as he searches out his own demons. Rural Somerset comes alive, with the lush green growth, the rain, and the cranky, isolated Victorian estate beyond cellphone coverage. Fueled by whisky, e-cigarettes and indifference to authority, Caffery’s the archetypical angst-driven hero, obsessed by the pedophile ring that kidnapped his brother decades earlier. It's the Walking Man, an itinerant loner who obsessively circles the site of his own daughter’s murder, who finds the dog, Bear, with the message "Help Us" attached to his collar. That draws Caffery into the hostage situation. Sexual obsession, rejection as fuel for violence and revenge on the part of an arms dealer all add to a chilling, ominous atmosphere in which mangled characters lurk—Ian the Geek and Honig, the captors; the retired colonel who lives nearby with a wheelchair-bound wife and a nurse in his bed; and Oliver, fraught with fractured mortality after his heart operation and yet strong enough to puzzle out the source of the obscene bloodlust. 

Another adventure for Caffery, a protagonist much like James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux or Paul Cleave’s Theo Tate, doomed to work "in the presence of evil."

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8021-2250-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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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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Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless...

SPLIT SECOND

Two defrocked Secret Service Agents investigate the assassination of one presidential candidate and the kidnapping of another.

Baldacci (The Christmas Train, 2002, etc.) sets out with two plot strands. The first begins when something distracts Secret Service Agent Sean King and during that “split second,” presidential candidate Clyde Ritter is shot dead. King takes out the killer, but that’s not enough to save his reputation with the Secret Service. He retires and goes on to do often tedious but nonetheless always lucrative work (much like a legal thriller such as this) at a law practice. Plot two begins eight years later when another Secret Service Agent, Michelle Maxwell, lets presidential candidate John Bruno out of her sight for a few minutes at a wake for one of his close associates. He goes missing. Now Maxwell, too, gets in dutch with the SS. Though separated by time, the cases are similar and leave several questions unanswered. What distracted King at the rally? Bruno had claimed his friend’s widow called him to the funeral home. The widow (one of the few characters here to have any life) says she never called Bruno. Who set him up? Who did a chambermaid at Ritter’s hotel blackmail? And who is the man in the Buick shadowing King’s and Maxwell’s every move? King is a handsome, rich divorce, Maxwell an attractive marathon runner. Will they join forces and find each other kind of, well, appealing? But of course. The two former agents traverse the countryside, spinning endless hypotheses before the onset, at last, of a jerrybuilt conclusion that begs credibility and offers few surprises.

Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless concoction.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2003

ISBN: 0-446-53089-1

Page Count: 406

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2003

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