Even with Ludlum’s urge to italicize and slam down double exclams kept under iron control, the new team still has a pop hit...

ROBERT LUDLUM'S THE HADES FACTOR

Veteran bestseller Ludlum (The Apocalypse Watch, 1995, etc.) takes on a co-author for his new trade paperback series.

Lynds (Mosaic, 1998, etc.) has had a calming effect on the Ludlum lust for overexclamatory prose and high body counts—although potentially millions will die here if the mysterious new virus weirdly popping up in unrelated pockets of the States isn’t identified and a cure found to reverse its fast, horrible effects. Colonel Jon Smith, an Army doctor and virologist with the US Army Medical Institute for Infectious Diseases, is in his early 40s and truly in love for the first time. His fiancée, cellular and molecular biologist Dr. Sophia Russell, often works down in Level Four of the Hot Zone at Fort Detrick, Maryland. Sophia leads a team looking into an amazing new virus that has simultaneously struck down an Army major in California, a homeless man in Boston, and a teenaged girl in Atlanta, all suffering the same symptoms and speedy death from lungs filled with blood. Twelve years ago, Sophia accompanied Dr. Victor Tremont into the wilds of Peru, where the natives successfully fought this same virus by drinking the blood of monkeys that had survived infection. When she calls Tremont to verify this, he lies and says he remembers no such thing. Then thugs enter Sophia’s lab while she’s working late, rifle her files, and jab her with the virus. With a great cloud over his heart, Jon seeks his dead fiancée’s killers—although he’s warned off the chase by a former FBI agent and college buddy who knows more about the virus than he should. Suddenly millions of unwitting victims have ingested a slow-acting form of it and will die unless given monkey-blood serum.

Even with Ludlum’s urge to italicize and slam down double exclams kept under iron control, the new team still has a pop hit on their hands that should bounce right up the bestseller lists.

Pub Date: June 20, 2000

ISBN: 0-312-26437-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2000

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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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Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless...

SPLIT SECOND

Two defrocked Secret Service Agents investigate the assassination of one presidential candidate and the kidnapping of another.

Baldacci (The Christmas Train, 2002, etc.) sets out with two plot strands. The first begins when something distracts Secret Service Agent Sean King and during that “split second,” presidential candidate Clyde Ritter is shot dead. King takes out the killer, but that’s not enough to save his reputation with the Secret Service. He retires and goes on to do often tedious but nonetheless always lucrative work (much like a legal thriller such as this) at a law practice. Plot two begins eight years later when another Secret Service Agent, Michelle Maxwell, lets presidential candidate John Bruno out of her sight for a few minutes at a wake for one of his close associates. He goes missing. Now Maxwell, too, gets in dutch with the SS. Though separated by time, the cases are similar and leave several questions unanswered. What distracted King at the rally? Bruno had claimed his friend’s widow called him to the funeral home. The widow (one of the few characters here to have any life) says she never called Bruno. Who set him up? Who did a chambermaid at Ritter’s hotel blackmail? And who is the man in the Buick shadowing King’s and Maxwell’s every move? King is a handsome, rich divorce, Maxwell an attractive marathon runner. Will they join forces and find each other kind of, well, appealing? But of course. The two former agents traverse the countryside, spinning endless hypotheses before the onset, at last, of a jerrybuilt conclusion that begs credibility and offers few surprises.

Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless concoction.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2003

ISBN: 0-446-53089-1

Page Count: 406

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2003

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