There are so many layers beneath layers of deception, in fact, that even the most enthralled readers—and there will be...



Think it would be fun to discover a lost symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven? Think again.

Inside the cedar box New Jersey hardware salesman Jake Hassler brings to auction house Cubbage & Wakeham is a pair of ledgers overflowing with handwritten musical passages, some scratched out, some incomplete, some written over. One of the volumes is labeled “Wilhelm Tell: Eine Dramatische Symphonie.” Under the increasingly pointed questioning of partner Harrison Ellsworth Cubbage III and Mitchell Emery, the ex-prosecutor heading the firm’s Department of Authentication and Appraisal, Jake tells how, after the death of his grandfather Otto Hassler in Zurich, he and Otto’s neighbor Ansel Erpf found the volumes in Otto’s attic and he spirited them out of the country before Ansel, Otto’s residuary legatee, could object. Everyone involved is afraid to believe that the find amounts to a version, however sketchy and incomplete, of Beethoven’s 10th Symphony, but that’s exactly what everyone wants it to be. Before Cubbage & Wakeham can move to offer the maybe-priceless item at auction, they have to explain its radical departures from the master’s other symphonies; they have to establish Jake Hassler’s clear title to it as part of the personal papers his grandfather left him; they have to determine what revisions might be required to make it performable; and they have to fight off the amusingly and increasingly determined attempts of Swiss and German attachés, an unnamed Asian millionaire, and several lesser private citizens to claim title or, failing that, to inveigh against its legitimacy. Novelist/historian Kluger (Indelible Ink: The Trials of John Peter Zenger and the Birth of America’s Free Press, 2016, etc.) knows both his Beethoven and his legal quiddities inside out, and over the course of an investigation headed mostly by Mitch Emery, he succeeds in casting serious doubt on the bona fides of American academics, German scholars, Swiss bankers, and virtually everyone else involved in this seven-course banquet of musical legend and coldhearted fraud.

There are so many layers beneath layers of deception, in fact, that even the most enthralled readers—and there will be many—are more likely to greet the climactic twist with exhausted relief than satisfaction.

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-945572-98-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Rare Bird Books

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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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.


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 about the pursuit of extrajudicial justice.


Ninth in the author’s Gray Man series (Mission Critical, 2019, etc.) in which “the most elite assassin in the world” has his hands full.

Ex–CIA Agent Courtland Gentry (the Gray Man) has Serbian war criminal Ratko Babic in his gun sight, but when he decides instead to kill the old beast face to face, he uncovers a massive sex-slavery ring. “I don’t get off on this,” the Gray Man lies to the reader as he stabs a sentry. “I only kill bad people.” Of course he does. If there weren’t an endless supply of them to slay, he’d have little reason to live. Now, countless young Eastern European women are being lured into sexual slavery and fed into an international pipeline, sold worldwide through “the Consortium.” Bad guys refer to their captives as products, not people. They are “merchandise,” but their plight haunts the Gray Man, so of course he is going to rescue as many women as he can. The road to their salvation will be paved with the dead as he enlists a team of fighters to strike the enemy, which includes a South African dude who is giddy for the chance to meet and kill the Gray Man. Meanwhile, Europol analyst Talyssa Corbu meets the hero while on a personal mission to rescue her sister. “You don’t seem like a psychopath,” she tells him. Indeed, though he could play one on TV. Corbu and her sister are tough and likable characters while the director of the Consortium leads a double life as family man and flesh merchant. Human trafficking is an enormous real-life problem, so it’s satisfying to witness our larger-than-life protagonist put his combat skills to good use. There will be a sequel, of course. As a friend tells the wounded Gentry at the end, he’ll be off killing bozos again before he knows it.

Great storytelling about the pursuit of extrajudicial justice.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09891-2

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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