Never say die, Robert L. The Ludlum Archive lives on, with more promised from the St. Martin’s Supremacy! And all of it...



Memorably unbelievable twists in the late Ludlum’s plots must include the note on The Sigma Protocol [ordering info—if it looks right; if not, then below], his far-from-farewell novel’s title page: “Final Revision June 4, 2001.” Only Ludlum can die in Naples, Florida, on March 12, 2001, and revise his book three months later. Or did he fake his fatal cardiac arrest so that, like deathproof Jason Bourne (The Bourne Ultimatum, 1990), he could slip into retirement hidden from psychotic terrorists like Carlos the Jackal—and maybe from Kirkus Reviews?

Belted into his Burberry waterproof, fresh batteries in his Toshiba laptop, Ludlum throws us into his phosphoric paranoia. His first paragraphs whirl their blades and off we lift. You are in the Sigma Conspiracy! Somebody is out to destroy you—and not who you think. But sagacious investment banker Ben Hartman, 36, son of multibillionaire Max Hartman, 80, and survivor of his identical twin brother Peter’s death in a plane crash, arrives in Zurich, desperately bored. Stepping out of his hotel for a breather, Ben sees old Princeton drinking buddy Jimmy Cavanaugh pull out a Walther PPK [PPK is right?] and try to shoot him, right on the Bahnhofsträsse [check accent]. “This was madness, absolute madness!” Ben races into a crowd. “Suddenly, barely two feet away, a young woman’s forehead exploded in a mist of red.” More innocents spurt blood and fall dead about him. Apocalyptic carnage. Thank heaven, we’re out of the doldrums. But what held back Ludlum’s first massive bloodletting until page eight? The old ticker slowing down? Too much lithium? et’s see: five dead, seven wounded. No, Ben kills Cavanaugh. Six dead. But then Cavanaugh’s body disappears, all blood wiped away! And the cops find Cavanaugh’s gun in Ben’s luggage! And Cavanaugh has no record at Princeton! Jimmy a plant, keeping tabs on Ben? What’s more, Peter’s not dead! Ben’s mind bursts! Now gorgeous Anne Navarro, a Justice Department special investigator, wants to know who’s been knocking off oldsters who are tied together only by their listings in the “Sigma” OSS file. Why does Sigma One kill off these dodderers it calls angeli rebelli? Why is Anne’s new boss Alan Bartlett so sphinxlike? He’s a mole? Is aged Max Hartman tied to Sigma One? My God, Peter, now twice-dead, is shot by an assassin while talking with Ben! Had those dead old guys something to do with a still active SS conspiracy? Why does Sigma One need batches of refugee children? For cellular research on reverse aging? Hair now dark and glossy, is old Max SS? Does Ludlum even know yet? Oh, so many questions! How can a reader sleep?

Never say die, Robert L. The Ludlum Archive lives on, with more promised from the St. Martin’s Supremacy! And all of it revised from the Above?

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-312-27688-5

Page Count: 528

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2001

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.


Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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A killer thriller.


Black takes time out from chronicling the neighborhood-themed exploits of half-French detective Aimée Leduc to introduce a heroine as American as apple pie.

Kate Rees never expected to see Paris again, especially not under these circumstances. Born and bred in rural Oregon, she earned a scholarship to the Sorbonne, where she met Dafydd, a handsome Welshman who stole her heart. The start of World War II finds the couple stationed in the Orkney Islands, where Kate impresses Alfred Stepney of the War Department with the rifle skills she developed helping her dad and five brothers protect the family’s cattle. After unimaginable tragedy strikes, Stepney recruits Kate for a mission that will allow her to channel her newly ignited rage against the Germans who’ve just invaded France. She’s parachuted into the countryside, where her fluent French should help her blend in. Landing in a field, she hops a milk train to Paris, where she plans to shoot Adolf Hitler as he stands on the steps of Sacre-Coeur. Instead, she kills his admiral and has to flee through the streets of Paris, struggling to hook up with the rescuers who are supposed to extract her. Meanwhile, Gunter Hoffman, a career policeman in a wartime assignment with the Reichssicherheitsdienst security forces, is charged with finding the assassin who dared attempt to kill the Führer. It’s hard to see how it can end well for both the cop and the cowgirl. The heroine’s flight is too episodic to capitalize on Black’s skill at character development, but she’s great at raising readers’ blood pressure.

A killer thriller.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020


Page Count: 360

Publisher: Soho Crime

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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


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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