Exhilarating and suspenseful, this novel is hard to put down and sure to please.

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In DePaul’s thriller, a former assassin intends to leave everything behind—until she meets the man of her dreams.

Sandra Walsh was a highly skilled sniper for the mercenary agency SweetBriar Group until one fatal day changed everything. She and her team were supposed to save a group of victims from sex slavery, but in one wrong move, Sandra accidentally shot a young girl. There’s no way she can continue after that, so she faked her death and left everything behind (“A dead operative who assassinates a victim doesn’t get a home. She gets a life on the run. She had to squash the urge to give her conscience the finger”). Her team of Talon, Romeo, Cappy, and Magician are like family, but she has no choice. She begins a new life as an operations manager at the Gradwick Adventure Center, an arcade and games facility in Ridge Creek, North Carolina, and for a while everything seems to be all right. Her boss is Casper Grady, a handsome and muscular former Marine who now spends his time overseeing a safe place for families to enjoy some entertainment. Sparks fly, and there’s a definite romantic and physical tension between Sandra and Grady, but she can’t risk getting close to anyone. Unfortunately, her past catches up to her and she has to go on the run; Carlos, the head of the cartel responsible for the sex slavery Sandra was trying to stop, is seething to get revenge against the sniper who put a huge dent in his operation. Another threat is Victor, the head of SBG, who wants to take Sandra out now that she’s gone rogue and threatened the whole agency. Grady refuses to leave her unprotected and joins her, leaving his own world behind. The author has crafted an excellent suspense thriller, with many unpredictable twists and turns, and created great antagonists in Victor and Carlos, keeping the stakes high. Sandra proves herself to be a lethal adversary as well as a relatable woman who wants romance with her handsome boss. Grady is initially difficult to find appealing, but he eventually proves himself to be a worthy partner to her. Overall, this is a fun and valuable addition to any thriller fan’s bookshelf.

Exhilarating and suspenseful, this novel is hard to put down and sure to please.

Pub Date: May 30, 2023

ISBN: 978-1959324010

Page Count: 504

Publisher: Northfair Publishing

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2023


Loyal King stans may disagree, but this is a snooze.

A much-beloved author gives a favorite recurring character her own novel.

Holly Gibney made her first appearance in print with a small role in Mr. Mercedes (2014). She played a larger role in The Outsider (2018). And she was the central character in If It Bleeds, a novella in the 2020 collection of the same name. King has said that the character “stole his heart.” Readers adore her, too. One way to look at this book is as several hundred pages of fan service. King offers a lot of callbacks to these earlier works that are undoubtedly a treat for his most loyal devotees. That these easter eggs are meaningless and even befuddling to new readers might make sense in terms of costs and benefits. King isn’t exactly an author desperate to grow his audience; pleasing the people who keep him at the top of the bestseller lists is probably a smart strategy, and this writer achieved the kind of status that whatever he writes is going to be published. Having said all that, it’s possible that even his hardcore fans might find this story a bit slow. There are also issues in terms of style. Much of the language King uses and the cultural references he drops feel a bit creaky. The word slacks occurs with distracting frequency. King uses the phrase keeping it on the down-low in a way that suggests he probably doesn’t understand how this phrase is currently used—and has been used for quite a while. But the biggest problem is that this narrative is framed as a mystery without delivering the pleasures of a mystery. The reader knows who the bad guys are from the start. This can be an effective storytelling device, but in this case, waiting for the private investigator heroine to get to where the reader is at the beginning of the story feels interminable.

Loyal King stans may disagree, but this is a snooze.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2023

ISBN: 9781668016138

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023


Lots of violent action with little payoff.

Jack Ryan Jr. is back to risk life and limb in saving a teenage girl from international killers while his father, U.S. President Jack Ryan Sr., figures out what to do with Iran’s clandestine uranium enrichment facility, hidden in a mine.

Junior, head of the secret intelligence outfit The Campus, which was functionally wiped out in Tom Clancy Flash Point (2023), is heading across Texas to a rendezvous with his fiancee, Lisanne Robertson, a one-armed former Marine and cop. He’s waylaid by the aftermath of a multi-vehicle accident that he discovers resulted from a gun attack that left a driver hanging on for life, and now puts Jack in the crosshairs of the gunmen. A tip leads him to a 4 a.m. meeting with Amanda, a single mom whose impetuous daughter, Bella, has run off with her highly undesirable boyfriend only to be abducted by the baddies. the nation’s capital, American surveillance has determined that Iran is on the cusp of nuclear armament. The only way to stop them is unleashing an unpiloted and untested super plane with massive destructive power. The book’s treatment of Iran’s “existential threat to the entire globe” as a subplot is rather curious, to say the least. You keep waiting for Bentley to connect the two stories, but that happens only superficially. Late in the book, we are told as an afterthought that Iran’s immediate threat had been “mitigated.” Unfortunately, there is no mitigation of the novel’s hackneyed prose—"The analytical portion of Jack’s brain couldn’t help but be impressed.”

Lots of violent action with little payoff.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2023

ISBN: 9780593422816

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2023

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