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

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V2

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. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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The most over-the-top of Horowitz’s frantically overplotted whodunits to date—and that’s no mean feat.

MOONFLOWER MURDERS

Susan Ryeland, the book editor who retired to Crete after solving the mind-boggling mysteries of Magpie Murders (2017), is enticed to England to try her hand at another Chinese box of a case.

Eight years ago, the wedding weekend of Cecily Treherne and Aiden MacNeil at Branlow Hall, the high-end Suffolk hotel the bride’s parents owned, was ruined by the murder of Frank Parris, a hotel guest and advertising man who just happened to be passing through. Romanian-born maintenance man Stefan Codrescu was promptly convicted of the crime and has been in prison ever since. But Cecily’s recent disappearance shortly after having told her parents she’d become certain Stefan was innocent drives Lawrence and Pauline Treherne to find Susan in Crete, where they offer her 10,000 pounds to solve the mystery again and better. Susan’s the perfect candidate because she worked closely with late author Alan Conway, whose third novel, Atticus Pünd Takes the Case, contained the unspecified evidence that convinced Cecily that Detective Superintendent Richard Locke, now DCS Locke, had made a mistake. Checking into Branlow Hall and interviewing Cecily’s hostile sister, Lisa, and several hotel staffers who were on the scene eight years ago tells Susan all too little. So she turns to Atticus Pünd Takes the Case, whose unabridged reproduction occupies the middle third of Horowitz’s novel, and finds that it offers all too much in the way of possible clues, red herrings, analogies, anagrams, and easter eggs. The novel within a novel is so extensive and absorbing on its own, in fact, that all but the brainiest armchair detectives are likely to find it a serious distraction from the mystery to which it’s supposed to offer the key.

The most over-the-top of Horowitz’s frantically overplotted whodunits to date—and that’s no mean feat.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06295-545-6

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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Vintage King: a pleasure for his many fans and not a bad place to start if you’re new to him.

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IF IT BLEEDS

The master of supernatural disaster returns with four horror-laced novellas.

The protagonist of the title story, Holly Gibney, is by King’s own admission one of his most beloved characters, a “quirky walk-on” who quickly found herself at the center of some very unpleasant goings-on in End of Watch, Mr. Mercedes, and The Outsider. The insect-licious proceedings of the last are revisited, most yuckily, while some of King’s favorite conceits turn up: What happens if the dead are never really dead but instead show up generation after generation, occupying different bodies but most certainly exercising their same old mean-spirited voodoo? It won’t please TV journalists to know that the shape-shifting bad guys in that title story just happen to be on-the-ground reporters who turn up at very ugly disasters—and even cause them, albeit many decades apart. Think Jack Torrance in that photo at the end of The Shining, and you’ve got the general idea. “Only a coincidence, Holly thinks, but a chill shivers through her just the same,” King writes, “and once again she thinks of how there may be forces in this world moving people as they will, like men (and women) on a chessboard.” In the careful-what-you-wish-for department, Rat is one of those meta-referential things King enjoys: There are the usual hallucinatory doings, a destiny-altering rodent, and of course a writer protagonist who makes a deal with the devil for success that he thinks will outsmart the fates. No such luck, of course. Perhaps the most troubling story is the first, which may cause iPhone owners to rethink their purchases. King has gone a far piece from the killer clowns and vampires of old, with his monsters and monstrosities taking on far more quotidian forms—which makes them all the scarier.

Vintage King: a pleasure for his many fans and not a bad place to start if you’re new to him.

Pub Date: April 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3797-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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