An espionage tale with believable characters that draw readers into the action.



MI6 agent Michael Vaux returns to track down a security breach in Lebanon in Croft’s (The Maghreb Conspiracy, 2014, etc.) thriller.

When British intelligence assets go missing or turn up dead in Beirut, an MI6 subgroup, Department B3, turns to semiretired Vaux for a secret freelance assignment. Specifically, they ask him to find the person who’s been leaking key information. However, Anthony Mansfield, MI6’s head of station in Beirut, quickly becomes aware of Vaux’s operation, and he’s unhappy with what he sees as B3’s “interference.” Mansfield sends his own agent to keep an eye on Vaux, who, in turn, makes contact with Chris Greene, B3’s man in Beirut. Vaux also acquires his own asset—a student at the American university—but his investigation hasn’t gone far when he and Greene stumble upon a new body. Vaux further deduces that the killers may also be engineering a frame-up. Things get even more problematic when Greene mysteriously vanishes and Vaux receives a ransom note. The agent, with help from Sgt. Pitt of the British Embassy and others, quickly plans a rescue mission. As the murders continue, Vaux devises a way to trap the mole before anyone else dies. Croft incorporates a suitable amount of tension into his plot. This is largely accomplished by the historical setting, as it takes place in 2010 and includes the real-life Israel-Lebanon border clash. This event unnerves the already anxious Mansfield and acts as a constant reminder of the potential for violence. But the novel gets the most mileage from its down-to-earth qualities: Vaux may be a professional spy, but he still has to borrow Greene’s Sig Sauer—and when Greene wants that returned, Vaux is forced to borrow someone else’s weapon. The self-aware Mansfield also provides plenty of wry humor; he’s a fan of spy fiction and contemplates adopting the jargon of his CIA counterpart, Alex Mailer (such as the term “dangle” for a double agent). The reveal at the end is satisfying, though somewhat predictable.

An espionage tale with believable characters that draw readers into the action.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5470-7727-4

Page Count: 292

Publisher: Cassio Books International

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2017

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.


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 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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