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THE CAIRO AFFAIR

Could easily dispense with a third of the pages in this le Carré wannabe.

In the new novel by the well-traveled Steinhauer (An American Spy, 2012, etc.), the death of an American diplomat in Hungary sets wheels spinning across North Africa.

Sophie Kohl hasn’t been the best of wives. But when her husband, Emmett, is shot in a Budapest restaurant, her reaction is swift and visceral. Instead of flying his body home to Boston, she bolts to Cairo, the scene of diplomat Emmett’s last posting. There, she seeks help from her former lover, Stan Bertolli, in unraveling the drama that led to Emmett’s end. Opinion is mixed. Emmett’s colleague and Stan’s boss, Harry Wolcott, thinks the dead agent sold out his country to Zora Balaševic, who has dirt on him from the youth he misspent among disaffected Serbians in Novi Sad. Stan has more faith in the deceased rival for Sophie’s affections. He helps her track down Jibril Aziz, a CIA analyst from Langley who recently appeared in Cairo asking for escort into Libya. The creator of Stumbler, a long-dormant blueprint for the ouster of Moammar Gadhafi, Aziz is convinced that someone has revived his plan at the worst possible moment: just as the Libyans stand poised to rid themselves of the dictator. As the Egyptians cope with their own version of the Arab Spring, more contestants vie for the Betrayal of the Month prize, and the body count climbs. In the end, it’s a question of which will win out: misguided nationalism or plain old greed.

Could easily dispense with a third of the pages in this le Carré wannabe.

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-250-03613-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2014

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DEVOLUTION

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z(2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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THE SILENT PATIENT

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

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A woman accused of shooting her husband six times in the face refuses to speak.

"Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband. They had been married for seven years. They were both artists—Alicia was a painter, and Gabriel was a well-known fashion photographer." Michaelides' debut is narrated in the voice of psychotherapist Theo Faber, who applies for a job at the institution where Alicia is incarcerated because he's fascinated with her case and believes he will be able to get her to talk. The narration of the increasingly unrealistic events that follow is interwoven with excerpts from Alicia's diary. Ah, yes, the old interwoven diary trick. When you read Alicia's diary you'll conclude the woman could well have been a novelist instead of a painter because it contains page after page of detailed dialogue, scenes, and conversations quite unlike those in any journal you've ever seen. " 'What's the matter?' 'I can't talk about it on the phone, I need to see you.' 'It's just—I'm not sure I can make it up to Cambridge at the minute.' 'I'll come to you. This afternoon. Okay?' Something in Paul's voice made me agree without thinking about it. He sounded desperate. 'Okay. Are you sure you can't tell me about it now?' 'I'll see you later.' Paul hung up." Wouldn't all this appear in a diary as "Paul wouldn't tell me what was wrong"? An even more improbable entry is the one that pins the tail on the killer. While much of the book is clumsy, contrived, and silly, it is while reading passages of the diary that one may actually find oneself laughing out loud.

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30169-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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