No action thriller this—it’s all courtroom drama.

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TRAGIC

Tanenbaum (Bad Faith, 2012, etc.) goes on the waterfront in his latest in his crime series featuring Butch Karp and Marlene Ciampi.

Charlie Vitteli runs the New York City–based North American Brotherhood of Stevedores. That’s bad for its members. Vitelli wants to hold onto power and continue to take bribes for avoiding safety regulations while also dipping into embezzled pension fund money. Using Joey Barros, his razor-toting enforcer, as go-between, Vitteli contracts with a Russian mob wannabe for the assassination of a union reformer. The murder’s done, but the ugly punk from St. Petersburg is soon caught, along with two local mopes. That’s when Roger "Butch" Karp, district attorney for New York County, steps in. One of the trio turns state’s witness. The three are convicted. The Russian wannabe is quickly eliminated in a prison murder engineered by the Brighton Beach–based Malchek bratka. That convinces the other mope to turn state’s witness, and Vitteli is indicted and convicted. With killers and motives laid out, this is no page-turning whodunit. Instead, Karp flexes his Jack McCoy muscles, giving courtroom-theater fans something to do when television is bereft of Law and Order re-runs. While Marlene Ciampi is a minor player, the narrative is bloated, with some contradictions and "that can’t happen" moments. Most characters are clichés, but two or three break out: Jackie Corcione, weakling son of the union founder who is kept in line by the threat of outing his homosexuality; "Dirty Warren," Tourette’s-afflicted, street-wise newsstand operator; and Ivgeny Karchovski, retired USSR colonel and boss of a not-so-bad Russian gang, thugs who are willing to deal in illegal immigration, false papers and black markets but draw the line at drugs, guns and prostitution. Conveniently, Ivgeny is Butch’s cousin and part of an underworld pipeline. Tanenbaum tosses in quotes and references to Macbeth—"I have murdered sleep" being handy shorthand for a beleaguered conscience—but that’s an elaborate blueprint for a small structure.  

No action thriller this—it’s all courtroom drama.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4516-3555-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2013

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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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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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