Trouble follows the protagonist everywhere he goes—and so should readers; each new tale’s as gripping as the last.

The Medinandi License

From the Trace Brandon series , Vol. 4

The fifth book in Reneau’s (Legend of War Creek, 2015, etc.) thriller series finds returning American geologist Trace Brandon facing off against terrorists in a politically restless West African country.

Trace is looking for a fresh start, having just lost someone he loved. Mali, where he can explore a gold concession with pal Gordon Watson, is as good a place as any. But unpleasantness may be on the horizon: Gordon’s leasing exploration rights from a company controlled by the furtive Gen. Timerov, head of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service. At the same time, people like Oliver Olgetree, the U.S. ambassador to Mali, warn Trace of potential problems, from an arms dealer that the Saudis are gunning for to venomous scorpions and camel spiders. And this is before Gordon and Trace even have drilling equipment in the country. The biggest threat, as it turns out, may be al-Qaida, whose local members have taken shots at the crew’s plane and who’s most likely responsible for an assassination attempt against Trace. The geologist gets a helping hand from attorney/business partner Will Coffee and, surprisingly, Babba Dia, said arms dealer, who outfits the men with much-needed Uzis, and Humphrey Bogart–look-alike pilot Jean-Claude Renaud. But when al-Qaida kidnaps a friend, Trace will have to decide whether to pay the ransom or organize a rescue mission. Though the story’s brimming with obstacles for the protagonist, it’s the menacing atmosphere that proves most indelible. Military coups, for example, are common in West Africa—there’s an ever present chance of Trace and others finding themselves in danger of having operations in Mali interrupted or stopped altogether. More ominous but just as unsettling are giant fruit bats that seem to gather outside of Trace’s hotel room window. When not ducking bullets or missiles, the geologist dabbles in romance with Molly Wainwright; hasty love declarations are a little hard to believe, but U.S. Peace Corps supervisor Molly is an exceptional character. As in preceding books, Reneau’s laconic writing style is laced with humor, like cloud tendrils from an imminent storm equated with “the tentacles of a very pissed-off octopus.”

Trouble follows the protagonist everywhere he goes—and so should readers; each new tale’s as gripping as the last.

Pub Date: April 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5119-5649-9

Page Count: 316

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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


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?

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. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?