Paul Janson, ex–Consular Operations assassin, is offered $5 million to find a missing oil-company physician captured by pirates near the island nation of Isle de Foree off Africa’s west coast.

Janson, now operating CatsPaw Associates, a security business, agrees to the job out of loyalty. Doug Case, a former Cons Ops agent shot and paralyzed while protecting Janson, has asked Janson to take on this assignment. Janson also runs Phoenix Foundation, his mechanism of atonement for morally shaky missions in his past. Phoenix locates and rehabilitates undercover ops who were used and tossed aside by secret operations agencies. Case, now head of security for American Synergy Corporation, was a Phoenix project. Garrison (The Ripple Effect, 2004, etc.) drops more than one colorfully sketched archetype into the mix. There’s a bloodthirsty dictator, a tough but conscientious rebel leader struggling to control his revolution, a ruthless South African assassin on assignment from the nefarious Securité Referral, former Mossad operatives, a Nigerian princess and corporate manipulators eager to control a multibillion-dollar oil patch. Janson jets to the scene, accompanied by super-sniper Jessica Kincaid, his chief operative and sometime love interest. They infiltrate into the rebel camp where the doctor is held, but the rescue collapses into chaos as loyalist forces attack. Then Reaper drones shatter the dictator’s troops. Janson and Kincaid manage a temporary rescue of the doctor and the rebel chieftain, Ferdinand Poe, but Isle de Foree’s brutal President for Life Iboga escapes via Harrier jump-jet. The doctor also slips away. Kincaid gives chase while Janson attempts to learn who can field Reapers and Harriers. It could even be ASC, powerful in a world “where rogue corporations are more dangerous than rogue government agencies.” The action moves from Spain to Australia to Switzerland to Israel to Corsica and finally back to Isle de Foree. There’s sufficient knife work, sniper shots, RPGs, private jets, helicopters, betrayals and corporate machinations to satisfy every armchair covert agent.

Formulaic yet entertaining.

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-446-56450-2

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2011

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


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. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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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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