This fifth case for Makana (The Burning Gates, 2015, etc.) again deftly wraps a whodunit around an eloquent,...

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CITY OF JACKALS

One missing student from South Sudan is a puzzle; a second South Sudanese student found decapitated points to something altogether more disturbing.

December 2005. The Hafiz family hires veteran Egyptian private investigator Makana to investigate the sudden disappearance of their son Mourad, a university student. Mourad has chosen to go into engineering rather than taking over the family’s once-renowned restaurant, The Verdi Gardens, now past its prime. Mrs. Hafiz admits to Makana that they see Mourad rarely, and none of the family has any idea where he could be. The unconventional Makana, who lives on a boat, has become a friend and mentor to Aziza, the teenage daughter of his landlady. As he and Aziza walk by the river, a fisherman comes ashore with a severed head he’s found. This discovery provides Makana the opportunity to question his friend Okasha, a police detective, about his own new case and hear Okasha’s concern for the loneliness of Makana, who’s still haunted by his wife’s death more than a decade ago. With no real leads, the investigation proceeds slowly, though Makana learns from Mourad’s roommate, Abdelhadi, that he kept late hours and was disdainful of religions. Makana finds himself drawn to the victim dredged from the river. He visits the coroner, Doctor Siham, who has concluded that the victim, who was tortured, was of Mundari ethnicity, just like Mourad—and indeed like Makana. Could the mysteries be related?

This fifth case for Makana (The Burning Gates, 2015, etc.) again deftly wraps a whodunit around an eloquent, character-driven look at recent history.

Pub Date: June 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-63286-327-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

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An enjoyable read. Berry’s fans won’t be disappointed.

THE WARSAW PROTOCOL

Holy relics, a salt mine, and treachery feature in this 15th entry in the author’s Cotton Malone series (The Malta Exchange, 2019, etc.).

Former lawyer and American intelligence officer Cotton Malone is now a bookseller who goes to Bruges, Belgium, for an antiquarian book fair. He’s hired by a former boss to steal the Holy Lance, one of the seven “weapons of Christ,” or Arma Christi. That is the price of admission to a secret auction, in which various countries will bid on compromising information about Poland’s president, Janusz Czajkowski. The point? Czajkowski is an honorable man who will not allow the U.S. to build a missile system on Polish soil, and the EU– and NATO-hating U.S. President Fox is one of several people who want the Polish leader out of the way at all costs. “If I wanted a conscience, I’d buy one,” Fox says. Readers will have to pay close attention to suss out the meaning of Czajkowski’s Warsaw Protocol because the author hardly hammers it home. But the story is fun regardless, especially with characters like the smart and resourceful Malone and the Polish foreign intelligence officer Sonia Draga, “a fortress, often scaled and assaulted, but never conquered.” The complex plot leads to a magnificent Polish salt mine (a real place) that’s hundreds of meters deep with nine layers, has hundreds of miles of tunnels, brine lakes people can’t sink in, and lots of tourists. Berry builds suspense nicely, allowing readers to anticipate the violence that eventually comes. To a great extent, the novel is a richly detailed homage to Poland, its culture, and its ability to survive so many invasions over the centuries. The connection between Arma Christi and an unwanted American missile system feels a wee bit iffy, but at least the latter won’t be called the Holy Lance.

An enjoyable read. Berry’s fans won’t be disappointed.

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-14030-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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Inside this bloated novel is a lean thriller starring a strong and damaged protagonist who's as compelling as Lisbeth...

THE THIRD TO DIE

In Brennan’s (Nothing To Hide, 2019, etc.) new series launch, a hard-edged female LAPD undercover cop and an ambitious FBI special agent race to catch a serial killer before he strikes again.

On paid administrative leave since an incident with a suspect went wrong, a restless Detective Kara Quinn is on an early morning run in her hometown of Liberty Lake, Washington, when she discovers the flayed corpse of a young nurse. In D.C., FBI Special Agent in Charge Mathias Costa is staffing the new Mobile Response Team, designed to cover rural areas underserved by law enforcement, when his boss assigns Matt and analyst Ryder Kim to Liberty Lake. The notorious Triple Killer, who murders three random victims, three days apart, every three years, has returned. With only six days to identify and catch the culprit, and only three days until he kills again, the team is “on a very tight clock.” What should be on-the-edge-of-your-seat suspense turns into a slog marred by pedestrian prose (“she heard nothing except birds chirping…”), a convoluted plot slowed down by a focus on dull bureaucratic infighting, and flat character development. The sole exception is the vividly drawn Kara. Smart, angry, defensive, complicated, she fascinates both the reader and Matt ("Kara Quinn was different—and he couldn’t put his finger on why”).

Inside this bloated novel is a lean thriller starring a strong and damaged protagonist who's as compelling as Lisbeth Salander.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7783-0944-4

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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