“War is what I do,” Pike tells Azzara when they first square off. Roger that, and prepare the body bags.


Having taken on the Serbian mob (The First Rule, 2010), soldier of fortune Joe Pike is ready for a slickly plotted encounter with drug-dealing Bolivians and their strongmen.

Stopping at a service station to top off one of his Jeep’s tires, Pike spots two suspicious men entering a sandwich shop. Moments later, he follows and finds them beating and kicking the owner, Wilson Smith. Attacked by Pike, one assailant flees and the other is swiftly subdued and waiting for the police. But Smith doesn’t want the police, and he doesn’t want the medical care he obviously needs; all he wants is for everybody to leave him alone. When his niece Dru Rayne calls Pike the following morning to tell him that someone’s returned to vandalize the shop, Pike realizes that keeping predators off Smith’s back could amount to full-time work. Working his connections in L.A.’s Ghost Town, he arranges a meeting with up-and-coming gang lord Miguel Azzara, who assures him that Smith’s attackers, Reuben Mendoza and Alberto Gomer, won’t be back. So Pike relaxes enough to take warm, appealing Dru out for a beer and wonder whether she could become the special lady in his life. But the point becomes moot when another call tells him that Smith and his niece have vanished, and not simply because they left for Oregon until things cooled down, as Smith maintained in a phone call. Have they been kidnapped or killed? Why didn’t Azzara protect them? Are the culprits Mendoza and Gomer, or other players in the shadowy game Pike’s walked into? The high-profile involvement of Pike’s ex-colleague Det. Jerry Button of the LAPD and Jack Straw of the FBI alerts Pike and his partner, Elvis Cole, that this case has always been about more than assault and battery. But they aren’t prepared for a series of revelations that make every player’s story suspect.

“War is what I do,” Pike tells Azzara when they first square off. Roger that, and prepare the body bags.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-15707-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2010

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


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

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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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