A short, enjoyable thriller with plenty of well-researched historical nuggets.

A veteran historical novelist homes in on one of Hitler’s last desperate hopes.

In 1944, the Nazis know they're losing the war. They’d developed the V1, a pilotless drone bomb its targets could hear coming, and now its successor, which strikes without warning. The Nazis call it Vergeltungswaffen Zwei, Vengeance Weapon Two. The V2 rockets are notoriously unreliable, though. Although they're aimed at Charing Cross Station in the heart of London, any strike within five miles is considered a success. Many hit English neighborhoods, killing dozens of civilians, while others explode at launch or veer off into the sea. Chapters of the novel alternate between the two sides, specifically between German engineers and British intelligence. Twenty-four-year-old intelligence analyst Kay Caton-Walsh is in a married man’s bed and survives a direct hit as floors of the building collapse around her. A half dozen people are killed and almost 300 injured. Meanwhile, German engineers work furiously to prepare missiles for launch from Belgium. Despite severe technical problems, they are under great pressure to produce the weapons in the thousands and rush them into service. The story has plenty of interesting details—for example, the bulk of Germany’s potato crop that year had been requisitioned to be distilled into alcohol for use as rocket fuel. British radar can spot the V2s in flight, but “where exactly were they coming from? That was the mystery.” If only the Brits could look at a rocket’s parabola and calculate its point of origin....Caton-Walsh volunteers to help find out: “I’m good at maths. I know how to use a slide rule.” She joins a team of women working on the problem. Readers may recognize Germany’s main rocket engineer, Wernher von Braun. Though he shows necessary fealty to the Nazi cause, his secret dream is to send a rocket to the moon. And if he has to do that from America, that’s another story.

A short, enjoyable thriller with plenty of well-researched historical nuggets.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-65671-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020


Loyal King stans may disagree, but this is a snooze.

A much-beloved author gives a favorite recurring character her own novel.

Holly Gibney made her first appearance in print with a small role in Mr. Mercedes (2014). She played a larger role in The Outsider (2018). And she was the central character in If It Bleeds, a novella in the 2020 collection of the same name. King has said that the character “stole his heart.” Readers adore her, too. One way to look at this book is as several hundred pages of fan service. King offers a lot of callbacks to these earlier works that are undoubtedly a treat for his most loyal devotees. That these easter eggs are meaningless and even befuddling to new readers might make sense in terms of costs and benefits. King isn’t exactly an author desperate to grow his audience; pleasing the people who keep him at the top of the bestseller lists is probably a smart strategy, and this writer achieved the kind of status that whatever he writes is going to be published. Having said all that, it’s possible that even his hardcore fans might find this story a bit slow. There are also issues in terms of style. Much of the language King uses and the cultural references he drops feel a bit creaky. The word slacks occurs with distracting frequency. King uses the phrase keeping it on the down-low in a way that suggests he probably doesn’t understand how this phrase is currently used—and has been used for quite a while. But the biggest problem is that this narrative is framed as a mystery without delivering the pleasures of a mystery. The reader knows who the bad guys are from the start. This can be an effective storytelling device, but in this case, waiting for the private investigator heroine to get to where the reader is at the beginning of the story feels interminable.

Loyal King stans may disagree, but this is a snooze.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2023

ISBN: 9781668016138

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023


Lots of violent action with little payoff.

Jack Ryan Jr. is back to risk life and limb in saving a teenage girl from international killers while his father, U.S. President Jack Ryan Sr., figures out what to do with Iran’s clandestine uranium enrichment facility, hidden in a mine.

Junior, head of the secret intelligence outfit The Campus, which was functionally wiped out in Tom Clancy Flash Point (2023), is heading across Texas to a rendezvous with his fiancee, Lisanne Robertson, a one-armed former Marine and cop. He’s waylaid by the aftermath of a multi-vehicle accident that he discovers resulted from a gun attack that left a driver hanging on for life, and now puts Jack in the crosshairs of the gunmen. A tip leads him to a 4 a.m. meeting with Amanda, a single mom whose impetuous daughter, Bella, has run off with her highly undesirable boyfriend only to be abducted by the baddies. Meanwhile...in the nation’s capital, American surveillance has determined that Iran is on the cusp of nuclear armament. The only way to stop them is unleashing an unpiloted and untested super plane with massive destructive power. The book’s treatment of Iran’s “existential threat to the entire globe” as a subplot is rather curious, to say the least. You keep waiting for Bentley to connect the two stories, but that happens only superficially. Late in the book, we are told as an afterthought that Iran’s immediate threat had been “mitigated.” Unfortunately, there is no mitigation of the novel’s hackneyed prose—"The analytical portion of Jack’s brain couldn’t help but be impressed.”

Lots of violent action with little payoff.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2023

ISBN: 9780593422816

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2023

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