Though character development is a real problem, De Feo is definitely a newcomer to watch.

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CALLING MR. KING

A hit man discovers his inner aesthete. Uh-oh. 

From childhood on, John Cole hated his old man with a passion. The permanently angry blue-collar worker would go into the woods outside their Hudson River town and shoot everything in sight. Cole inherited his father’s expert marksmanship; he left home before they shot each other. Unemployed, he was hired to put his skill to good use…on a human target. He had found his profession. Word of his expertise spread. He moved to London to work for a worldwide conglomerate known as the Firm; he never missed his targets. But when we first meet the 33-year-old Cole, he has the nagging feeling that he’s off his game. A quick job in Paris has taken a whole week, and he almost botches his next job, outside a Georgian house in the English countryside. He gets his man but is forced to shoot a bystander as well, breaking a cardinal rule. This is a terrific start. First-time novelist De Feo hooks us as he describes Cole tracking his quarry. These are clean kills; there is no splatter. The author also has a great premise: that a hired gun’s need for a career change might take him in a wholly unexpected direction. That beautiful Georgian house has sparked Cole’s imagination. Why couldn’t he be the owner? He buys books on Georgian architecture. An escapist fantasy becomes a scholarly pursuit. The Firm sends him to New York to lie low after that countryside mess. Here the novel stalls; De Feo doesn’t know what to do with Cole except have him buy more books and visit museums. He becomes a bore, moaning about his miserable childhood on a pointless visit to his hometown. By the final segment in Barcelona, Spain, scene of Cole’s new assignment, his transformation is complete. The hit man, in denial, has become a student of Spanish architecture.

Though character development is a real problem, De Feo is definitely a newcomer to watch.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-59051-475-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2011

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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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Great storytelling about the pursuit of extrajudicial justice.

ONE MINUTE OUT

Ninth in the author’s Gray Man series (Mission Critical, 2019, etc.) in which “the most elite assassin in the world” has his hands full.

Ex–CIA Agent Courtland Gentry (the Gray Man) has Serbian war criminal Ratko Babic in his gun sight, but when he decides instead to kill the old beast face to face, he uncovers a massive sex-slavery ring. “I don’t get off on this,” the Gray Man lies to the reader as he stabs a sentry. “I only kill bad people.” Of course he does. If there weren’t an endless supply of them to slay, he’d have little reason to live. Now, countless young Eastern European women are being lured into sexual slavery and fed into an international pipeline, sold worldwide through “the Consortium.” Bad guys refer to their captives as products, not people. They are “merchandise,” but their plight haunts the Gray Man, so of course he is going to rescue as many women as he can. The road to their salvation will be paved with the dead as he enlists a team of fighters to strike the enemy, which includes a South African dude who is giddy for the chance to meet and kill the Gray Man. Meanwhile, Europol analyst Talyssa Corbu meets the hero while on a personal mission to rescue her sister. “You don’t seem like a psychopath,” she tells him. Indeed, though he could play one on TV. Corbu and her sister are tough and likable characters while the director of the Consortium leads a double life as family man and flesh merchant. Human trafficking is an enormous real-life problem, so it’s satisfying to witness our larger-than-life protagonist put his combat skills to good use. There will be a sequel, of course. As a friend tells the wounded Gentry at the end, he’ll be off killing bozos again before he knows it.

Great storytelling about the pursuit of extrajudicial justice.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09891-2

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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