Nifty bullfighting scenes do not redeem an otherwise cliché-cluttered narrative. For die-hard fans only.

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DOUBLE SHOT

The creakiest exercise yet in American Bond fan Benson's postmodern resurrection of Ian Fleming's peerless killer spy, has an embarrassingly witless 007 going rogue to fight a dastardly multinational crime cartel.

Two months after the calamitous conclusion of High Time to Kill (1999), Bond is still depressed over the death of lover Helen Marksbury. He's also on medical leave, under the care of comely Dr. Kimberely Feare, taking pills that are supposed to heal a brain lesion but do little more than leave him paranoid and prone to blackouts. Unknown to Bond, the American white supremacists who call themselves the Union have revamped themselves into a wealthy criminal club that holds meetings in swank, dimly lit underground boardrooms presided over by the mysterious Le Gerant, a blind man who forgoes canes because he can psychically sense his surroundings. Aided by sadomasochistic sexpot Margareta Piel, Le Gerant has found a crazed Bond look-alike willing to undergo plastic surgery, wear Brioni suits, and commit un-Bondly crimes, such as killing Dr. Feare moments after she forsakes medical ethics to succumb to the real Bond's “overwhelming masculinity.” Meanwhile, Spanish powerbroker (and Union member) Domingo Espada, who publicly manages bullfighters and privately kidnaps poor girls and turns them into sex slaves, has set up a meeting with the various heads of state to demand the return of Gibraltar to Spain. At the climax of the meeting, pseudo-Bond will kill the British Prime Minister. Of course, the one true Bond can thwart only so much gratuitous overplotting by himself, so he swipes a handgun from the Q Branch armory (almost no gadgetry in this outing, alas), falls in with voluptuous CIA twins Heidi and Hedy Taunt, and, after a inconvenient blackout, awakens in Espada's bullring, where he must first use his wits against a charging bull and then fight pseudo-Bond to the death.

Nifty bullfighting scenes do not redeem an otherwise cliché-cluttered narrative. For die-hard fans only.

Pub Date: June 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-399-14614-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2000

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Now that Coben’s added politics to his heady brew, expect sex and religion to join the mix.

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THE BOY FROM THE WOODS

Coben’s latest darkest-suburbs thriller sets a decidedly offbeat detective on the trail of a crime with overtones unmistakably redolent of once and future presidential elections.

Wilde is called Wilde because nobody’s known his real name from the moment a pair of hikers found him foraging for himself in Ramapo Mountain State Forest 24 years ago. Now over 40, he’s had experience as both a lost boy and a private investigator. That makes him an obvious person to help when his godson, Sweet Water High School student Matthew Crimstein, expresses concern to his grandmother, attorney Hester Crimstein, that his bullied classmate Naomi Pine has gone missing. Matthew doesn’t really want anyone to help. He doesn’t even want anyone to notice his agitation. But Hester, taking the time from her criminal defense of financial consultant Simon Greene (Run Away, 2019) to worm the details out of him, asks Wilde to lend a hand, and sure enough, Wilde, unearthing an unsavory backstory that links Naomi to bullying classmate Crash Maynard, whose TV producer father, Dash Maynard, is close friends with reality TV star–turned–presidential hopeful Rusty Eggers, finds Naomi hale and hearty. Everything’s hunky-dory for one week, and then she disappears again. And this time, so does Crash after a brief visit to Matthew in which he tearfully confesses his guilt about the bad stuff he did to Naomi. This second disappearance veers into more obviously criminal territory with the arrival of a ransom note that demands, not money, but the allegedly incriminating videotapes of Rusty Eggers that Dash and Delia Maynard have had squirreled away for 30 years. The tapes link Rusty to a forgotten and forgettable homicide and add a paranoid new ripped-from-the-headlines dimension to the author’s formidable range. Readers who can tune out all the subplots will find the kidnappers easy to spot, but Coben finds room for three climactic surprises, one of them a honey.

Now that Coben’s added politics to his heady brew, expect sex and religion to join the mix.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4814-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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