Film rights have already been sold to MGM. If you wait for the movie, you’ll see Bruce Willis, and you won’t miss a thing.

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HOSTAGE

Efficient, forgettable formula suspense in the Desperate Hours mold from a writer who’s done much better work.

The bad news for Jeff Talley, the crisis negotiator who left an LAPD SWAT team—and incidentally his wife and daughter—to become chief of the police force in safely suburban Bristo Camino, is that a trio of small-time crooks, incapable of holding up a local convenience store without shooting the owner, has gone to ground in George Smith’s house, taking Smith and his two children—Jennifer, 16, and Thomas, 10—captive. The worse news is that although two of the three wanted men, Dennis Rooney and his kid brother Kevin, are nothing but penny-ante losers, the third, Mars Krupchek, is a full-blown psycho with a lovingly detailed history of torture killings. The even worse news is that inoffensive George Smith is actually a mob accountant for L.A. crimelord Sonny Benza, a man who’ll do whatever it takes to make sure his men are the first people inside the Smith house to clear it of incriminating evidence, and who’s not going to let any police chief, certainly not anybody with an abductable wife and daughter, get in his way. Crais keeps the pot at a constant boil by switching focus every few paragraphs from the deviously plotting mobsters to the panicking perps to the hostages who keep trying fancy maneuvers that are 100% guaranteed to make their captors really, really mad. But since nobody involved has any human reality beyond the requirements of the situation, the suspense, though considerable, is a lot more synthetic than in Demolition Angel (2000). Connoisseurs will have no trouble predicting a finale awash in corpses, every one of them richly deserving of its gory fate.

Film rights have already been sold to MGM. If you wait for the movie, you’ll see Bruce Willis, and you won’t miss a thing.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2001

ISBN: 0-385-49585-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2001

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

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

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Child builds tension to unbearable extremes, then blows it out in sharply choreographed violence, even if his plot has more...

ECHO BURNING

From the Jack Reacher series , Vol. 5

Smashingly suspenseful fifth in Child’s series (Running Blind, 2000, etc.) lands this British author’s rootless, laconic action hero in southwest Texas, where a femme fatale lures him into a family squabble that inevitably turns violent.

In the kind of daylight-noir setting that Jim Thompson loved, ex-military cop Jack Reacher has his thumb out on a lonely west Texas highway when he’s picked up by Carmine Greer, the Mexican-American wife of bad-ol’-boy Sloop Greer. It seems that Sloop, elder son of a white-trash-turned-oil-rich ranching dynasty, is nearing the end of a prison term for tax evasion, and Carmine, whose body Reacher sees is marked with signs of physical abuse, wants Reacher to be her bodyguard—or, failing that, kill the man in such a way that Carmine can still hold on to her terminally cute six-year-old daughter Ellie. Reacher refuses but decides to meet the folks: Rusty, Sloop’s racist, charmless mother, and Bobby, Sloop’s stupid, pugnacious brother. Meanwhile, a trio of paid assassins is littering the Texas roadside with corpses, starting with Sloop’s lawyer, Al Eugene. In a set-piece as good as anything in Elmore Leonard, Bobby sends two ranch-hands to ambush Reacher at an Abilene roadhouse filled with 20 other cowboys spoiling for a fight. Reacher walks away without a scratch, telling Bobby that his hospitalized ranch-hands have “quit.” Child twists his increasingly hokey plot into a pretzel when Sloop is found dead and Carmine confesses to killing him. Reacher just can’t believe that Carmine is guilty and teams up with Alice Aarons, a leggy Jewish lesbian fresh out of law school, who trusts him with her car, her handgun, and her life.

Child builds tension to unbearable extremes, then blows it out in sharply choreographed violence, even if his plot has more holes in it than the shirt Reacher uses for target practice.

Pub Date: July 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-14726-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2001

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