Hall’s cautionary tale of a femme fatale boasts crackerjack storytelling, vibrant characters, and some terrific twists.

SO MANY DOORS

A willful and provocative beauty drives every man within her orbit to distraction, and one to murder, in a novel that was first published to great acclaim in 1950.

Each of the tale’s five sections focuses on a different character, all of them with hard-luck stories. The first begins as a broken Jack Ward sits in jail. Having confessed to the murder of an unnamed woman, he tells his court-appointed lawyer that all he wants is the gas chamber. Next Hall (Warlock, 1958, etc.) flashes back to Depression-era southern California, where Baird, a distressed rancher, is trying to keep his gorgeous and unruly teenage daughter, Vassilia, from running wild. Denton, a wealthy neighboring rancher, garners her affection by buying V a beautiful horse. When he offers to pay for V’s college education, claiming that he loves her like a daughter, Baird is unwilling to deny his generosity. The next section focuses on Ben Proctor, a small-time politico and roommate of Jack Ward, who’s dating V. Despite himself, Ben finds himself undeniably drawn to V, something Jack seems frustratingly oblivious to, often inviting him to join them. Whether her flirtatiousness is a form of friendly attention or something more, this arrangement can’t end well. Then the story jumps to Marian Huber, who adds another angle through her husband Arch’s friendship with Jack Ward, who’s newly married to naïve Gene Geary. Marian doesn’t think that supersweet Gene is a good match for erratic Jack, but when she spots him with a voluptuous temptress, she feels duty-bound to inform the innocent newlywed.

Hall’s cautionary tale of a femme fatale boasts crackerjack storytelling, vibrant characters, and some terrific twists.

Pub Date: Nov. 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-78565-688-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Hard Case Crime

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once...

DELIVER US FROM EVIL

In Baldacci’s 19th (True Blue, 2009, etc.), boy and girl monster-hunters meet cute.

Evan Waller, aka Fadir Kuchin, aka “the Butcher of Kiev,” aka “the Ukrainian psychopath,” is one of those deep-dyed villains a certain kind of fiction can’t do without. Serving with distinction as part of the Soviet Union’s KGB, he joyfully and indiscriminately killed thousands. Now, many years later, posing as a successful businessman, he’s vacationing in Provence where, unbeknownst to him, two separate clandestine operations are being mounted by people who do not regard him with favor. Reggie Campion—28 and gorgeous—spearheads the first, an ad hoc group of monster-hunting vigilantes. Studly, tall Shaw (no first name supplied) is point guard for a rival team, shadowy enough to leave the matter of its origin ambiguous. While their respective teams reconnoiter and jockey for position, studly boy meets gorgeous girl. Monster-hunters are famous for having trust issues, but clearly these are drawn to each other in the time-honored Hollywood fashion. Shaw saves Reggie’s life. She returns the favor. The attraction deepens and heats up to the point where team-members on both sides grow unsettled by the loss of focus, singularly inopportune since, as monsters go, Waller rises to the second coming of Caligula—ample testimony furnished by a six-page, unsparingly detailed torture scene. In the end, the stalkers strike, bullets fly, screams curdle the blood, love has its innings and a monster does what a monster’s got to do.

The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once again show the stuff it’s made of.

Pub Date: April 20, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-446-56408-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Avon A/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2010

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POP GOES THE WEASEL

After a flight in fantasy with When the Wind Blows (1998), Patterson goes to ground with another slash-and-squirm psychokiller page-turner, this one dedicated to “the millions of Alex Cross readers, who so frequently ask, can’t you write faster?” By day, Geoffrey Shafer is a charming, 42-year-old British Embassy paper-pusher with a picture-perfect family and a shady past as an MI-6 secret agent. Come sundown, he swallows a pharmacy of psychoactive pills, gulps three black coffees loaded with sugar, and roams the streets of Washington, D.C., in a battered cab, where, disguised as a black man, he rolls dice to determine which among his black female fares he—ll murder. Afterwards he dumps his naked victims in crime-infested back alleys of black- slum neighborhoods, then sends e-mails boasting of his accomplishments to three other former MI-6 agents involved in a hellish Internet role-playing game. “I sensed I was at the start of another homicide mess,” sighs forensic-psychologist turned homicide-detective Alex Cross. Cross yearns to catch the “Jane Doe murderer” but is thwarted by Det. Chief George Pittman, who assigns sexy Det. Patsy Hampton to investigate Cross and come up with a reason for dismissing him. Meanwhile, Cross’s fiancÇe is kidnaped during a Bermuda vacation, and an anonymous e-mail warns him to back off. He doesn’t, of course, and just when it appears that Patterson is sleep-walking through his story, Cross nabs Shafer minutes after Shafer kills Det. Hampton. During the subsequent high-visibility trail, Shafer manages to make the jury believe that he’s innocent and that Cross was trying to frame him. When all seems lost, a sympathetic British intelligence chief offers to help Cross bring down Shafer, and the other homicidal game-players, during a showdown on the breezy beaches of Jamaica. Kinky mayhem, a cartoonish villain, regular glimpses of the kindly Cross caring for his loved ones, and an ending that spells a sequel: Patterson’s fans couldn’t ask for more.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 1999

ISBN: 0-316-69328-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1999

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