RETRIBUTION TIMES TWO

An entertaining thriller with plenty of intrigue and fast-paced, collaborative action.

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In this novel, two criminal masterminds play a long game of retribution against their enemies— and three spies are the only ones standing in their way.

Raymond Charles Brickman III and Kathy Ann Erickson, aka Viktoriya Ratimirovna Popova, have prepared all their lives to enact revenge against those who have wronged them. Brickman, a self-proclaimed proud Southerner and Confederate, has a bone of contention with the United States, specifically against the North and those who oppressed Southerners and destroyed their fortunes following the Civil War. Erickson plans to retaliate against the Russian government, which is responsible for the death of her beloved family years ago in Afghanistan. Coincidentally, their separate plans come to fruition at the same time in March 2018. Brickman sets up the catastrophic destruction of critical U.S. weather satellites, and Erickson hacks into the direct line of communication between Russian President Vladimir Putin and American President Donald Trump, starting a chain of events that she expects will lead to an all-out nuclear war. The two governments’ secret services scramble for a response. That’s when Russian spy Dmitri Smirnov’s serendipitous visit to the U.S. proves a bonus when he meets his two friends Linda Kipling and Victor Silverstein, two scientists with the Naval Research Laboratory who happen to be CIA agents. These allies may find the only way to prevent World War III. Tag’s spy thriller offers a swiftly paced, tautly plotted series of episodes that encompass topical U.S. and Russian politics (including America’s growing number of domestic terrorists), diplomatic entanglements, and the cooperative work behind the scenes to keep peace in the world. The dynamics among Smirnov, Kipling, and Silverstein are engaging, and each character brings different specialties to the fight to save the world. The plot-driven narrative features adequate prose that’s focused on telling rather than showing. But despite this flawed approach and an overly enthusiastic use of exclamation marks (“No amount of planning or foresight can take the place of pure dumb luck!”), the tale smoothly sails to its climax. Fans of spy novels will greatly enjoy this story.

An entertaining thriller with plenty of intrigue and fast-paced, collaborative action.

Pub Date: June 15, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-66322-254-1

Page Count: 398

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2021

THE FURY

More style than substance.

Michaelides takes a literary turn in his latest novel, employing an unreliable narrator, the structure of classical drama, and a self-conscious eye to dismantling the locked-room mystery.

The novel starts off with a murder, and with seven people trapped on an isolated Greek island lashed by a "wild, unpredictable Greek wind." The narrator, soon established as Elliot Chase, then zooms out to address the reader directly, introducing the players—most importantly movie star Lana Farrar. We meet her husband, Jason Miller, her son, Leo, and her friend Kate Crosby, a theater actress. We learn about her rise to fame and her older first husband, Otto Krantz, a Hollywood producer. We learn about Kate’s possibly stalling career and Leo’s plan to apply to acting schools against his mother’s wishes. We learn about Jason’s obsession with guns. And in fragments and shards, we learn about Elliot: his painful childhood; his May–September relationship with an older female writer, now dead; his passion for the theater, where he learned “to change everything about [himself]” to fit in. Though he isn't present in every scene, he conveys each piece of the story leading up to the murder as if he were an omniscient narrator, capable of accessing every character's interior perspective. When he gets to the climax, there is, indeed, a shooting. There is, indeed, a motive. And there is, of course, a twist. The atmosphere of the novel, set mostly on this wild Greek island, echoes strongly the classical tragedies of Greece. The characters are types. The emotions are operatic. And the tragedy, of course, leads us to question the idea of fate. Michaelides seems also to be dipping into the world of Edgar Allan Poe, offering an unreliable narrator who feels more like a literary exercise. As an exploration of genre, it’s really quite fascinating. As a thriller, it’s not particularly surprising.

More style than substance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2024

ISBN: 9781250758989

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2023

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

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. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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