A creatively conceived, over-the-top thriller with plenty of room for more delicious treachery.

THE PORTABLE NINE

A reinvigorated gang of nine fearless yet curiously likable villains springs into action.

Mesling’s rousing thriller features a clever hit man named Davenport, known in underworld arenas as the “Mad Marksman of Malta.” Readers first meet Davenport in Florence, Italy, hard at work discreetly vanquishing international cargo negotiator Max Brindle. But this time, a rare mechanical malfunction occurs, and the hit on Brindle is botched, which sets in motion a series of deadly revenge plots. Meanwhile, crime syndicate figurehead Black Phantom, believing Brindle to be slaughtered, makes Davenport his target in a retaliation scheme that threatens the hit man’s family and ignites a vicious battle between the two men. In order to arm himself to the fullest extent, Davenport contacts a bevy of slick, vicious evildoers who are part of a group known as “The Portable Nine.” All of them exhibit unique monikers and lethal specialties. With the formation of this team of lawless underdogs, the author’s multifaceted story shifts into high gear. Chapter by chapter, Davenport’s deadly band is individually unveiled, each with distinctive details and personality quirks that keep the action popping and readers turning pages; there is nary a dull moment in this novel. These warriors, though most “likely to be out of shape and out of practice,” are urgently summoned after years apart and recruited back into action from the comfort of hiding places ranging from Los Angeles and the Midwest to the Australian Outback.

In this top-notch tale, Mesling takes great care to ensure the group is comprised of a formidable lot: not the average “workaday thug and cookie-cutter hit man” but a posse of “outcasts, criminals, egotists, and lunatics” sharing a unifying code of ethics. When gathered together, they form “a country unto themselves.” Alongside kingpin Davenport, the Nine include the hatchet-brandishing Butcher; fidgety Twitch Markham; the intimidating, business-minded Robin Varnesse; and brutal Chicagoan Miranda Gissing, a fierce fighter. They are joined by cunning former porn actress Lovinia Dulcet, who brandishes two Japanese steel skewers as her “Twin Delights” weapons of choice; Australian motorcyclist and macho man Abel Hazard, who surgically removed the fear center from his brain in order to become an audacious killer; and sightless Mr. Bonnet and his integral psychiatrist sidekick, Dr. Intaglio, who are sketchy spies for the Black Phantom and rejoin the others to infiltrate and leak intelligence. All fearless and mercilessly primed, the group is assembled by Davenport to help him put an end to the Black Phantom’s revenge plot to capture and exterminate the Nine (and a larger, associated terrorist scheme as well). Electronic trackers, blow darts, and a desert showdown provide the riveting conclusion while leaving the door ajar for further adventures now that the team has regrouped and dusted off its talents. The author keeps all his characters spinning, though some naturally dominate, right through the rather rushed but satisfying ending.

A creatively conceived, over-the-top thriller with plenty of room for more delicious treachery.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-57-873256-5

Page Count: 299

Publisher: Other Kingdoms Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2021

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With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

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REMINDERS OF HIM

After being released from prison, a young woman tries to reconnect with her 5-year-old daughter despite having killed the girl’s father.

Kenna didn’t even know she was pregnant until after she was sent to prison for murdering her boyfriend, Scotty. When her baby girl, Diem, was born, she was forced to give custody to Scotty’s parents. Now that she’s been released, Kenna is intent on getting to know her daughter, but Scotty’s parents won’t give her a chance to tell them what really happened the night their son died. Instead, they file a restraining order preventing Kenna from so much as introducing herself to Diem. Handsome, self-assured Ledger, who was Scotty’s best friend, is another key adult in Diem’s life. He’s helping her grandparents raise her, and he too blames Kenna for Scotty’s death. Even so, there’s something about her that haunts him. Kenna feels the pull, too, and seems to be seeking Ledger out despite his judgmental behavior. As Ledger gets to know Kenna and acknowledges his attraction to her, he begins to wonder if maybe he and Scotty’s parents have judged her unfairly. Even so, Ledger is afraid that if he surrenders to his feelings, Scotty’s parents will kick him out of Diem’s life. As Kenna and Ledger continue to mourn for Scotty, they also grieve the future they cannot have with each other. Told alternatively from Kenna’s and Ledger’s perspectives, the story explores the myriad ways in which snap judgments based on partial information can derail people’s lives. Built on a foundation of death and grief, this story has an undercurrent of sadness. As usual, however, the author has created compelling characters who are magnetic and sympathetic enough to pull readers in. In addition to grief, the novel also deftly explores complex issues such as guilt, self-doubt, redemption, and forgiveness.

With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5420-2560-7

Page Count: 335

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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Enjoyable storytelling by two masters of the craft.

22 SECONDS

Lindsay Boxer faces a ton of trouble in the latest entry in Patterson and Paetro’s Women’s Murder Club series.

Senior crime reporter Cindy Thomas is writing a biography of Evan Burke, a notorious serial killer who sits in solitary confinement in San Quentin. She’s kidnapped by thugs wanting her to talk about her best friend, Lindsay Boxer, who’s an SFPD homicide detective and the story’s main character. San Francisco has a restrictive new gun law, and gun-totin’ folks everywhere have their boxer shorts in a twist. A national resistance movement has formed—Defenders of the Second—whose motto is “We will not comply.” They find it outrageous that the new law makes it illegal to own a gun that can kill 50 people with a single clip. Meanwhile, lots of bodies show up: A young girl disappears and is later found dead in a ditch, and ex-cops are found dead with their lips stapled shut and “You talk, you die” written on their foreheads. An inmate is found hanged in prison. And “a massive but unspecified load of military-style weaponry was en route from Mexico to the City by the Bay.” In a “frustrating, multipronged case,” there’s a harrowing shootout memorialized in a video showing “twenty-two of the scariest seconds” of Boxer’s life. She’s an appealing series hero with loving family and friends, but she may arrive at a crossroads where she has “to choose between my work and [my] baby girl.” The formulaic story has unmemorable writing, but it’s entertaining and well told. You probably won’t have to worry about the main characters, who have thus far survived 21 adventures. Except for the little girl, you can expect people to get what they deserve. It's relatively mild as crime novels go, but the women characters are serious, strong, and admirable.

Enjoyable storytelling by two masters of the craft.

Pub Date: May 2, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-49937-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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