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

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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

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A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed...

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THE LAST TRIAL

Trying his final case at 85, celebrated criminal defense lawyer Sandy Stern defends a Nobel-winning doctor and longtime friend whose cancer wonder drug saved Stern's life but subsequently led to the deaths of others.

Federal prosecutors are charging the eminent doctor, Kiril Pafko, with murder, fraud, and insider trading. An Argentine émigré like Stern, Pafko is no angel. His counselor is certain he sold stock in the company that produced the drug, g-Livia, before users' deaths were reported. The 78-year-old Nobelist is a serial adulterer whose former and current lovers have strong ties to the case. Working for one final time alongside his daughter and proficient legal partner, Marta, who has announced she will close the firm and retire along with her father following the case, Stern must deal not only with "senior moments" before Chief Judge Sonya "Sonny" Klonsky, but also his physical frailty. While taking a deep dive into the ups and downs of a complicated big-time trial, Turow (Testimony, 2017, etc.) crafts a love letter to his profession through his elegiac appreciation of Stern, who has appeared in all his Kindle County novels. The grandly mannered attorney (his favorite response is "Just so") has dedicated himself to the law at great personal cost. But had he not spent so much of his life inside courtrooms, "He never would have known himself." With its bland prosecutors, frequent focus on technical details like "double-blind clinical trials," and lack of real surprises, the novel likely will disappoint some fans of legal thrillers. But this smoothly efficient book gains timely depth through its discussion of thorny moral issues raised by a drug that can extend a cancer sufferer's life expectancy at the risk of suddenly ending it.

A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed Innocent.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4813-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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

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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