A gut-wrenching tale filled with empathy for alienated teens. This may be the best yet in a first-rate series.


A fast-paced thriller in which Windermere and Stevens (The Stolen Ones, 2015, etc.) must stop the Internet predator who’s persuading teens to commit suicide.

FBI agent Carla Windermere partners again with Special Agent Kirk Stevens of Minnesota’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. Adrian Miller, a high school classmate of Stevens’ daughter, commits suicide, and soon both agents are searching for possible connections with other suicides. Someone is putting the kids up to it, and readers soon see who. “It started with the hole in the wall” for 15-year-old Randall Gruber, who spied on his stepsister, Sarah, in their double-wide trailer and “resented that she was so happy.” Stepdad Earl terrorized Randall, who found a way to secretly goad Sarah into committing suicide, which he watched with great pleasure through the hole. Meanwhile, the agents discover that someone is targeting alienated teenagers on the online Death Wish forum and grooming them for self-destruction. He tells them that he's fed up with life, too, and says they should kill themselves together. But first he has to watch them do it, via a webcam: "I need to watch you or I won't have the guts to do it myself." It's Gruber, of course, though the agents don't know it yet; after the kids commit suicide, he sells the videos. Windermere and Stevens set up a fake profile to lure the predator and rescue the teens. They’re relentless, especially Windermere, who barely contains her fury. She even browbeats a judge into admitting the issue is criminal activity and not free speech. And when Gruber thinks he has the best of Windermere, she keeps coming at him—“The bitch just wouldn’t take a hint.” No indeed, and that’s why her colleagues call her Supercop and why she's such a wonderful series character. Either she or the perp is going down, and it damned well won’t be her. She’s African-American, by the way, but that factors little into the series so far.

A gut-wrenching tale filled with empathy for alienated teens. This may be the best yet in a first-rate series.

Pub Date: March 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-17454-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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


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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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.


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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