A pretty good thriller in an informative historical setting.

RED TRAITOR

A fictionalized account of the Cuban missile crisis from the Soviet perspective.

Fresh from a triumphant case involving a Soviet nuclear superbomb, Alexander Vasin of the Special Cases directorate of the KGB is attempting to catch a high-level spy. Oleg Morozov of the GRU is believed to be passing secrets to the Americans, but all Vasin’s efforts to uncover the traitor have so far yielded nothing. Vasin feels a particular urgency to succeed because his own boss, Gen. Orlov, is locked in mortal bureaucratic combat with Morozov’s boss, Gen. Serov. As Vasin pursues his quarry, he uncovers evidence that the Politburo has authorized the shipment and installation of nuclear missiles in Cuba. In a separate plot development, a flotilla of four Soviet submarines, each one carrying a single nuclear torpedo in addition to its conventional torpedoes, is deployed toward Cuba. As Vasin uncovers more and more of this unsettling situation, he comes to believe that the American government needs to be informed, and he begins to try to use Morozov as a conduit. The discovery of the missiles in Cuba precipitates a diplomatic crisis, but cooler heads eventually prevail over the hawkish Soviet faction. The submarines, however, present another threat. Submerged and beyond communication, they do not require confirmatory orders to use their weapons, and when the U.S. “quarantine” corrals them, the possibility of a nuclear exchange looms. Matthews has done solid historical research—in many cases his characters bear the names of the actual participants—and the fictionalization is deft, but his need to represent all the moving parts detracts from the effect of the whole. Though the matter is momentous, less might have been more.

A pretty good thriller in an informative historical setting.

Pub Date: July 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-385-54342-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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As attuned as always to current geopolitical concerns, but substantially less compelling than Silva's previous novels.

THE CELLIST

Gabriel Allon goes after the deadliest weapon at the Russian president’s disposal—his money.

When CIA agent–turned–art dealer Sarah Bancroft finds the dead body of Viktor Orlov, a wealthy newspaper publisher and Russian dissident, the grim discovery leads Gabriel Allon, the head of Israel’s intelligence service, to a treasure trove of documents detailing massive financial crimes. Once he tracks down the woman who leaked these documents, Gabriel may finally have the tools he needs to take down the autocrat in the Kremlin. “A nuclear bomb can only be dropped once. But money can be wielded every day with no fallout and no threat of mutually assured destruction.” This bit of wisdom comes from a Russian operative Gabriel captured in The Other Woman (2018), and Silva makes a persuasive case that the best way to neutralize the threat of troll farms and disinformation campaigns is to starve these operations of cash. But this is a thriller, not an essay in Foreign Policy. It turns out that money laundering isn’t inherently exciting, and Silva does little to make it so. Identifying the shadowy figure who manages the Russian president’s fortune is easy, as is infiltrating his world. All the characters in this universe are types, but most of them are crafted with verisimilitude sufficient to keep the reader engaged. The titular cellist, Isabel Brenner, is a beautiful blond blank. It’s not at all clear why she makes the transition from functionary at a dirty bank to amateur spy willing to risk her life to ruin oligarchs. In previous novels, Silva wove in chapters written from the points of view of the bad guys. This technique creates dramatic irony, and it has given us some truly terrific villains—horrifying sadists and gleeful monsters of corruption who make excellent foils for the nearly superhuman Gabriel. Past installments have also given Gabriel's team more to do, and it’s impossible not to miss them and their spycraft.

As attuned as always to current geopolitical concerns, but substantially less compelling than Silva's previous novels.

Pub Date: July 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-283486-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Harper

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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Greed, love, and extrasensory abilities combine in two middling mysteries.

LABYRINTH

Coulter’s treasured FBI agents take on two cases marked by danger and personal involvement.

Dillon Savitch and his wife, Lacey Sherlock, have special abilities that have served them well in law enforcement (Paradox, 2018, etc.). But that doesn't prevent Sherlock’s car from hitting a running man after having been struck by a speeding SUV that runs a red light. The runner, though clearly injured, continues on his way and disappears. Not so the SUV driver, a security engineer for the Bexholt Group, which has ties to government agencies. Sherlock’s own concussion causes memory loss so severe that she doesn’t recognize Savitch or remember their son, Sean. The whole incident seems more suspicious when a blood test from the splatter of the man Sherlock hit reveals that he’s Justice Cummings, an analyst for the CIA. The agency’s refusal to cooperate makes Savitch certain that Bexholt is involved in a deep-laid plot. Meanwhile, Special Agent Griffin Hammersmith is visiting friends who run a cafe in the touristy Virginia town of Gaffers Ridge. Hammersmith, who has psychic abilities, is taken aback when he hears in his mind a woman’s cry for help. Reporter Carson DeSilva, who came to the area to interview a Nobel Prize winner, also has psychic abilities, and she overhears the thoughts of Rafer Bodine, a young man who has apparently kidnapped and possibly murdered three teenage girls. Unluckily, she blurts out her thoughts, and she’s snatched and tied up in a cellar by Bodine. Bodine may be a killer, but he’s also the nephew of the sheriff and the son of the local bigwig. So the sheriff arrests Hammersmith and refuses to accept his FBI credentials. Bodine's mother has psychic powers strong enough to kill, but she meets her match in Hammersmith, DeSilva, Savitch, and Sherlock.

Greed, love, and extrasensory abilities combine in two middling mysteries.

Pub Date: July 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-9365-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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