An adventure-filled thriller, brimming with vibrant historical and geographical details, with a disappointing resolution.


A debut novel focuses on a soldier in Iraq who discovers a mysterious relic.

Will Eastgate is a special ops soldier helping to recover lost treasures in Iraq during Operation Enduring Freedom. When he unearths a strange tablet, he finds himself in the middle of an ancient religious struggle, running for his life and trying to figure out the motives of those chasing him. That leads him to Olivia Nazarian, an Assyriologist at Cambridge University, famous for writing a book that may have uncovered the location of the Garden of Eden. Eastgate enlists her help in unlocking the tablet’s secrets only to find that Samir Zana, one of her students, is part of the Flaming Sword, an organization whose centuries-old mission is to protect the site of Eden to prevent humans from defying God by reentering the Garden. Swain has populated this thriller with a host of intriguing supporting characters, including Olivia’s father, Dashni, the British foreign secretary; Pearl, a high-level freelance hacker and an old college fraternity mate of Eastgate’s; and Reso Zana, Samir’s controlling father and another member of the Flaming Sword. The author keeps the action exciting and the story moving swiftly as Eastgate and Olivia traverse England and the Middle East. Swain describes each location in vivid detail, as when he writes about the snowmelt from the mountains running through the streets of Tehran. Similarly, the author’s research into religion and politics helps bring the tale to life. It’s not until the very end that the enjoyable story starts to fall apart. After maintaining an impressive pace throughout, with the exception of an occasional unnecessary infodump meant to mark the year something is happening, the novel delivers a multitude of plot twists at the end that feel forced. They too conveniently contradict the elements that made the tale captivating in the first place.

An adventure-filled thriller, brimming with vibrant historical and geographical details, with a disappointing resolution.

Pub Date: May 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-578-64694-7

Page Count: 425

Publisher: Aberglassney & Shaw

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

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A poignant and lyrical novel that asks what is worth sacrificing for peace—and provides some answers.

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Berry delivers a taut and compassionate thriller as young mother Tessa is drawn into working as a double agent in the Irish Republican Army to protect her sister.

It's been years since the Good Friday Agreement was signed, but tensions in Northern Ireland remain at a constant simmer. Tessa moves through the simple motions of her life: taking care of her infant son, working at the BBC News Belfast bureau, spending time with her mother and sister. The physical isolation and beauty of her home village hint at the possibility of a world in which one doesn’t always have to be alert for terrorists; Tessa is old enough, however, to remember the Troubles, and she fears that the IRA will never truly surrender. Still, it comes as a shock at work one day when she sees a video of her sister participating in an IRA robbery. But even more shocking is the revelation that comes from Marian herself once she is able to reach out to Tessa: She's been a member of the IRA for seven years, drawn in by their talk about economic inequality, and has recently begun feeding information to MI5 in order to create space for peace talks. After a bomb she created for the IRA failed to blow up, though, she's under constant surveillance and can no longer meet with her British handler. And so Tessa joins her sister as a double agent: She's accepted by Marian’s crew and asked to do increasingly dangerous tasks for the IRA, which she then reports to her handler. Days of espionage are balanced by quiet moments with her son as Tessa comes to realize that putting herself in danger is justified, even necessary, if she wants him to grow up in a safer Ireland. Berry's use of short chapters, often divided into several smaller episodes, is particularly effective in reflecting Tessa's fragmented sense of loyalty and safety. This is not a book of action, though there is plenty, but instead a greater reflection on personal choice and consequence.

A poignant and lyrical novel that asks what is worth sacrificing for peace—and provides some answers.

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-73-522499-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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It may be time for Silva's hero to retire from the field and let his protégés take over.


Gabriel Allon partners with a dubious ally in the Middle East.

When a 12-year-old is abducted from an exclusive private school in Geneva, Allon, head of Israeli intelligence, is among the first to know. The girl’s father is Khalid bin Mohammed, heir to the Saudi throne, and he wants Allon’s help. KBM was once feted as a reformer, ready to bring new industries and new freedoms to his country. When he makes his appeal to Allon, though, KBM is the prime suspect in the murder of a journalist. If KBM immediately makes you think of MBS, you are correct. Silva mentions Mohammad bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s real-life heir apparent, in a foreword. But anyone who recognizes KBM as a fictional echo of MBS might find this book to be more old news than fresh entertainment. In his last few novels, Silva has turned his attention to current world affairs, such as the rise of the new Russia and the threats of global terrorism. In novels like The Other Woman (2018) and House of Spies (2017), the author was inventive enough that these works felt compelling and original. And, in The Black Widow (2016), Silva wrote much of the story from the point of view of the French-born Israeli doctor Allon recruited for an undercover mission while also expanding the roles of a few familiar secondary characters. Allon is a wonderful creation. In the first several novels in this series, he posed as an art restorer while working for Israel’s intelligence service. He adopted a variety of personas and gave readers access to people and places few of us will ever see. Now that he’s a public figure who can no longer invent alter egos, his world is smaller and less fascinating. The pacing here is slow, and any sense of urgency is undercut by the matter of what’s at stake. Ultimately, this is a narrative about removing one horrible Saudi ruler in order to reinstate a less horrible Saudi ruler. This might be solid realpolitik, but it’s not terribly compelling fiction.

It may be time for Silva's hero to retire from the field and let his protégés take over.

Pub Date: July 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-283483-6

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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