A bracing Vonnegut-esque performance full of angels and demons, winking commentary, and occasional bloodshed.

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MASTERS' MYSTERIUM

NIAGARA FALLS

This third installment of a fantasy series finds Lucifer, disguised as a senator, preparing to take over the United States.

Sixteen-year-old Bailey Tannahill is a self-professed “tomboy” who loves hunting. She lives with her 19-year-old brother, Ian, and their parents, Brian and Linda, on a compound in the wilderness near Youngstown, New York. While trying to capture muskrats on the Miller property, Bailey witnesses a bright light and hideous winged creatures. These are demons that answer to Satan, who currently possesses the body of Sen. Bill Stevenson. When Brian, a hardcore survivalist, learns about Bailey’s sighting, he insists the family drive to Las Vegas, where angels recently defeated some demons. Ian stays in New York in hopes of working at the Pantomime Theater with the Amazing Ahti, an alcoholic magician. In Las Vegas, the Rev. Jay Masters wants to expand his Mysterium franchise to showcase the surreal battles between angels and demons that he and his daughter, Trudy, have experienced. Trudy, pregnant with her husband Gavin’s child, can now see the heavenly “ladders” by which the angels travel. She’s not the only person to display a strange, new power. Ian has been making small objects vanish, a harmless skill until he accidentally casts Bailey into the unknown. In this volume of Reynolds’ (Masters’ Mysterium: Las Vegas, 2015, etc.) quirky series, the author nudges Masters and Trudy out of the spotlight to make room for the Tannahill siblings. Their teenage struggles are well illustrated. Ian wants to be a lighting technician, not a survivalist like his father; Bailey, meanwhile, undergoes a heartening change when the power to communicate with animals manifests, forcing her to question a blind acceptance of hunting. And no story in which the devil possesses a politician would be complete without amusing lines like “Many senators tried to live on their meager $174,000 income without success.” Stevenson’s plot to found the Academy of Peace and Justice feels constrained by Reynolds’ large cast and the rotating tableaux that feature them, but the author’s wicked sense of humor remains intact.

A bracing Vonnegut-esque performance full of angels and demons, winking commentary, and occasional bloodshed.

Pub Date: Nov. 23, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9886797-1-9

Page Count: 301

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

ONE GOOD DEED

Thriller writer Baldacci (A Minute to Midnight, 2019, etc.) launches a new detective series starring World War II combat vet Aloysius Archer.

In 1949, Archer is paroled from Carderock Prison (he was innocent) and must report regularly to his parole officer, Ernestine Crabtree (she’s “damn fine-looking”). Parole terms forbid his visiting bars or loose women, which could become a problem. Trouble starts when businessman Hank Pittleman offers Archer $100 to recover a ’47 Cadillac that’s collateral for a debt owed by Lucas Tuttle, who readily agrees he owes the money. But Tuttle wants his daughter Jackie back—she’s Pittleman’s girlfriend, and she won’t return to Daddy. Archer finds the car, but it’s been torched. With no collateral to collect, he may have to return his hundred bucks. Meanwhile, Crabtree gets Archer the only job available, butchering hogs at the slaughterhouse. He’d killed plenty of men in combat, and now he needs peace. The Pittleman job doesn’t provide that peace, but at least it doesn’t involve bashing hogs’ brains in. People wind up dead and Archer becomes a suspect. So he noses around and shows that he might have the chops to be a good private investigator, a shamus. This is an era when gals have gams, guys say dang and keep extra Lucky Strikes in their hatbands, and a Lady Liberty half-dollar buys a good meal. The dialogue has a '40s noir feel: “And don’t trust nobody.…I don’t care how damn pretty they are.” There’s adult entertainment at the Cat’s Meow, cheap grub at the Checkered Past, and just enough clichés to prove that no one’s highfalutin. Readers will like Archer. He’s a talented man who enjoys detective stories, won’t keep ill-gotten gains, and respects women. All signs suggest a sequel where he hangs out a shamus shingle.

Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5387-5056-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2019

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Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

CROOKED RIVER

FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast finds evil afoot in his latest action-filled adventure (Verses for the Dead, 2018, etc.).

Imagine Florida beachcombers’ shock when they discover a shoe with a severed foot inside. Soon they see dozens more feet, all in identical shoes, bobbing toward the beach. Police and FBI ultimately count more than a hundred of them washing up on Sanibel and Captiva Islands' tranquil shores. Pendergast teams up with the junior Special Agent Armstrong Coldmoon to investigate this strange phenomenon. Oceanographers use a supercomputer to analyze Gulf currents and attempt to determine where the feet entered the ocean. Were they dumped off a ship or an island? Does each one represent a homicide? Analysts examine chemical residues and pollen, even the angle of each foot’s amputation, but the puzzle defies all explanation. Attention focuses on Cuba, where “something terrible was happening” in front of a coastal prison, and on China, the apparent source of the shoes. The clever plot is “a most baffling case indeed” for the brilliant Pendergast, but it’s the type of problem he thrives on. He’s hardly a stereotypical FBI agent, given for example his lemon-colored silk suit, his Panama hat, and his legendary insistence on working alone—until now. Pendergast rarely blinks—perhaps, someone surmises, he’s part reptile. But equally odd is Constance Greene, his “extraordinarily beautiful,” smart, and sarcastic young “ward” who has “eyes that had seen everything and, as a result, were surprised by nothing.” Coldmoon is more down to earth: part Lakota, part Italian, and “every inch a Fed.” Add in murderous drug dealers, an intrepid newspaper reporter, coyotes crossing the U.S.–Mexico border, and a pissed-off wannabe graphic novelist, and you have a thoroughly entertaining cast of characters. There is plenty of suspense, and the action gets bloody.

Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4725-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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