The gripping conclusion to a spy series piloted by a relatable, enjoyable hero.

THE MAGHREB CONSPIRACY

THE THIRD SPY STORY IN CROFT'S MIDEAST TRILOGY

The intense, riveting final installment of Croft’s (Operation Saladin, 2013, etc.) Mideast trilogy.

MI6 agent and former journalist Michael Vaux is once more brought back into the fray in Croft’s latest suspenseful, dramatic thriller. Happily housesitting for an ex-lover and relieved to be retired from the danger and strain of espionage, Vaux is dismayed to hear that his services are needed yet again. MI6, a subgroup of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, has begun a new operation, reluctantly choosing Sebastian Micklethwait, their newest man, to lead the project, despite his inexperience. As a cautionary measure, MI6 decides to lure successful and savvy Vaux back into the game as a sort of chaperone for Micklethwait. The risky operation, involving the defection of a high-ranking al-Qaida operative and the promise of priceless information handed to MI6, grows more complicated and dangerous when the liaison between the official and MI6 is found brutally murdered. Vaux rejoins the murky, tense world of chasing shadows and hunting terrorists and soon discovers that this current operation is far more threatening than the ones he has taken on before. He’s forced to outsmart a competing CIA agent as well as the underground of the Muslim Maghreb; meanwhile, Micklethwait is kidnapped, raising the stakes even more. Will Vaux be able to keep apace of the agents and double agents who conspire to derail his mission? Clashes of culture, faith and motive escalate as lives are put at risk and no one proves trustworthy. Woven with historical fact and modern conflict, Vaux’s triumphant return for one last nail-biting mission proves to be a rewarding and satisfying end to this trilogy. Readers who appreciated the rumpled and unlikely hero before will celebrate his latest success and the deftness with which he bests his enemies. In fast-paced, straightforward prose, the substantive tale weaves together tension, romance and humor as Vaux once more emerges as a likable, admirable hero who carries a complicated plot with aplomb.

The gripping conclusion to a spy series piloted by a relatable, enjoyable hero.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2014

ISBN: 978-1500823320

Page Count: 276

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2014

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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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King fans won’t be disappointed, though most will likely prefer the scarier likes of The Shining and It.

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THE INSTITUTE

The master of modern horror returns with a loose-knit parapsychological thriller that touches on territory previously explored in Firestarter and Carrie.

Tim Jamieson is a man emphatically not in a hurry. As King’s (The Outsider, 2018, etc.) latest opens, he’s bargaining with a flight attendant to sell his seat on an overbooked run from Tampa to New York. His pockets full, he sticks out his thumb and winds up in the backwater South Carolina town of DuPray (should we hear echoes of “pray”? Or “depraved”?). Turns out he’s a decorated cop, good at his job and at reading others (“You ought to go see Doc Roper,” he tells a local. “There are pills that will brighten your attitude”). Shift the scene to Minneapolis, where young Luke Ellis, precociously brilliant, has been kidnapped by a crack extraction team, his parents brutally murdered so that it looks as if he did it. Luke is spirited off to Maine—this is King, so it’s got to be Maine—and a secret shadow-government lab where similarly conscripted paranormally blessed kids, psychokinetic and telepathic, are made to endure the Skinnerian pain-and-reward methods of the evil Mrs. Sigsby. How to bring the stories of Tim and Luke together? King has never minded detours into the unlikely, but for this one, disbelief must be extra-willingly suspended. In the end, their forces joined, the two and their redneck allies battle the sophisticated secret agents of The Institute in a bloodbath of flying bullets and beams of mental energy (“You’re in the south now, Annie had told these gunned-up interlopers. She had an idea they were about to find out just how true that was"). It’s not King at his best, but he plays on current themes of conspiracy theory, child abuse, the occult, and Deep State malevolence while getting in digs at the current occupant of the White House, to say nothing of shadowy evil masterminds with lisps.

King fans won’t be disappointed, though most will likely prefer the scarier likes of The Shining and It.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-9821-1056-7

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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