Ellory’s prose is rather colorless, the plot lacks pace and momentum and Irving, at the center of it, is lackluster.

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THE ANNIVERSARY MAN

Uneven thriller about a New York City police detective who tracks a copycat serial killer.

Ellroy (A Quiet Belief in Angels, 2009) begins with the appealing John Costello, nearly 17 and growing up in Jersey City. When John spots Nadia, a beautiful young woman, they begin a passionate relationship. One night, as they sit outdoors, a man approaches from behind and smashes Nadia’s head with a hammer. Nadia dies, John narrowly escapes and the killer eventually commits suicide at a psychiatric facility. Ellroy now jumps forward 11 years and, in what may be a strategic mistake, shifts to the point of view of police detective Ray Irving. The author provides ample details to animate Irving and his Manhattan, but neither the man nor the place equal the vibrance of Costello and his Jersey City. At work, Irving confronts a killing similar to Nadia’s—in Bryant Park, the body of a teenage girl turns up, her head crushed. Then the bodies of two teenage girls, shot in the head, are dumped along FDR Drive. Later, the body of a young man, his face painted like a clown, is found in a drain. A story in the City Herald traces the killings to those of serial killers of the past. Because all these killers were executed or are currently imprisoned, the story suggests a copycat killer is at large. How did reporter Karen Langley develop this theory? With aid from research assistant John Costello, who now obsessively compiles information about serial killers. Langley points out to Irving that the present-day killings occur on the anniversaries of the earlier murders. Aided by Langley and Costello, Irving digs through a massive haystack of serial-murder cases to find a needle—another case the killer will recreate. After several dead-ends, the three face off with the Anniversary Man in a tense scene in Madison Park.

Ellory’s prose is rather colorless, the plot lacks pace and momentum and Irving, at the center of it, is lackluster.

Pub Date: June 10, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-59020-327-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2010

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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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