Dead-on Cold War fiction. Noir to the bone.

AN HONORABLE MAN

A moody debut spy novel inspired by real events.

In 1953, the world is filled with angst. Stalin is dead, and the USSR is in turmoil. A Soviet mole has penetrated the CIA, causing missions to fail and agents to die. The CIA has code-named him Protocol, and in Washington, D.C., agent George Mueller must uncover him. Mueller wants to get out of his double life because “Washington was a terrible place for honorable men to work,” and he hates “the red-baiting spectacle in Congress.” He has no friends, because “friendship is a dangerous luxury.” Indeed, there’s little that he seems to like. “My indifference is a life preserver against a tide of joyless disappointments,” he says. When he chats with Yuri Vasilenko, head of the Soviet trade mission and a likely agent of the secret police, Vasilenko tells him, “Our countries share one thing. Corruption.…Our jobs require that we lie to each other.” One afternoon, Mueller rides home on a bicycle and is run off the road and injured. He finds himself at the home of Beth Altman, who gets him medical care and invites him to stay for dinner. Beth’s brother, Roger, works for the State Department. He’s homosexual, a secret that if made public would lump him with communists in the eyes of Congress. So he’s vulnerable to blackmail, but Mueller knows about Roger’s sexual orientation and fully trusts him. Vasilenko tries to recruit Mueller as a double agent. Mueller’s missteps get him in trouble; for example, he has an “unauthorized meeting with the other side” and fails a polygraph test. Washington is a dour setting, as hammered home by excessive weather reports such as the “low ceiling of angry clouds,” and Mueller’s attitude fits right in.

Dead-on Cold War fiction. Noir to the bone.

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1038-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Emily Bestler/Atria

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 11

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless...

SPLIT SECOND

Two defrocked Secret Service Agents investigate the assassination of one presidential candidate and the kidnapping of another.

Baldacci (The Christmas Train, 2002, etc.) sets out with two plot strands. The first begins when something distracts Secret Service Agent Sean King and during that “split second,” presidential candidate Clyde Ritter is shot dead. King takes out the killer, but that’s not enough to save his reputation with the Secret Service. He retires and goes on to do often tedious but nonetheless always lucrative work (much like a legal thriller such as this) at a law practice. Plot two begins eight years later when another Secret Service Agent, Michelle Maxwell, lets presidential candidate John Bruno out of her sight for a few minutes at a wake for one of his close associates. He goes missing. Now Maxwell, too, gets in dutch with the SS. Though separated by time, the cases are similar and leave several questions unanswered. What distracted King at the rally? Bruno had claimed his friend’s widow called him to the funeral home. The widow (one of the few characters here to have any life) says she never called Bruno. Who set him up? Who did a chambermaid at Ritter’s hotel blackmail? And who is the man in the Buick shadowing King’s and Maxwell’s every move? King is a handsome, rich divorce, Maxwell an attractive marathon runner. Will they join forces and find each other kind of, well, appealing? But of course. The two former agents traverse the countryside, spinning endless hypotheses before the onset, at last, of a jerrybuilt conclusion that begs credibility and offers few surprises.

Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless concoction.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2003

ISBN: 0-446-53089-1

Page Count: 406

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2003

Did you like this book?

more