Except for some occasional ill-advised foreshadowing, Harper’s businesslike prose, more John Lutz than John D. MacDonald,...

DEATH BENEFIT

The whole insurance racket is one big, unregulated scam, Harper notes—and he’s got some unpleasant facts to back him up—but smiling Jim Hartman, of Bethlehem Casualty & Life, is running a series of scams that go even further. Hartman pushes high-premium burial insurance to ghetto moms, cancels low-risk policies without notifying his clients and pockets years’ worth of premiums, and buys off the lawsuits brought against him by the few bereaved relatives he can’t con into accepting his sad tale of how the departed must have cancelled the policy or borrowed against it himself. His latest con is to murder victims whose deaths can be disguised as accidents and then goad their estates into launching wrongful-death suits that will include a payout for him. One day, Philadelphia reporter-turned-avenger George Gray (Final Fear, 1993, etc.) implicates Hartman in the refusal to pay off the insurance claim of his late ex-lover Karen Murphy, and from that point on, it’s a fight to the death, as Gray patiently assembles evidence against Hartman—not so he can get him arrested and tried, but so that he can extort a fat settlement for the families Hartman preyed on—and Hartman calmly calls Gray’s bluffs, reveals the patsy he’s set up to take the rap for him, and reminds Gray how good an investment life insurance would have been for the nuisances who thought they could cross swords with him before.

Except for some occasional ill-advised foreshadowing, Harper’s businesslike prose, more John Lutz than John D. MacDonald, makes the whole fairy tale even more chilling. You’ll be demanding receipts from your own insurance agent.

Pub Date: July 12, 2000

ISBN: 0-684-86917-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2000

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Greed, love, and extrasensory abilities combine in two middling mysteries.

LABYRINTH

Coulter’s treasured FBI agents take on two cases marked by danger and personal involvement.

Dillon Savitch and his wife, Lacey Sherlock, have special abilities that have served them well in law enforcement (Paradox, 2018, etc.). But that doesn't prevent Sherlock’s car from hitting a running man after having been struck by a speeding SUV that runs a red light. The runner, though clearly injured, continues on his way and disappears. Not so the SUV driver, a security engineer for the Bexholt Group, which has ties to government agencies. Sherlock’s own concussion causes memory loss so severe that she doesn’t recognize Savitch or remember their son, Sean. The whole incident seems more suspicious when a blood test from the splatter of the man Sherlock hit reveals that he’s Justice Cummings, an analyst for the CIA. The agency’s refusal to cooperate makes Savitch certain that Bexholt is involved in a deep-laid plot. Meanwhile, Special Agent Griffin Hammersmith is visiting friends who run a cafe in the touristy Virginia town of Gaffers Ridge. Hammersmith, who has psychic abilities, is taken aback when he hears in his mind a woman’s cry for help. Reporter Carson DeSilva, who came to the area to interview a Nobel Prize winner, also has psychic abilities, and she overhears the thoughts of Rafer Bodine, a young man who has apparently kidnapped and possibly murdered three teenage girls. Unluckily, she blurts out her thoughts, and she’s snatched and tied up in a cellar by Bodine. Bodine may be a killer, but he’s also the nephew of the sheriff and the son of the local bigwig. So the sheriff arrests Hammersmith and refuses to accept his FBI credentials. Bodine's mother has psychic powers strong enough to kill, but she meets her match in Hammersmith, DeSilva, Savitch, and Sherlock.

Greed, love, and extrasensory abilities combine in two middling mysteries.

Pub Date: July 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-9365-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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

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THE SILENT PATIENT

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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