Another rousing wartime thriller that gets its facts and its storytelling right.



A sixth entry from the case files of troubled Finnish detective Inspector Pekkala.

This is another exciting historical thriller from the prolific Eastland (The Beast in the Red Forest, 2014, etc.), the pen name for American literary novelist Paul Watkins (Ice Soldier, 2005, etc.). This entry finds Pekkala working in two eras. We first meet him working as Czar Nicholas' right-hand man in pre-Revolutionary Russia, a role that puts him in the middle of political intrigue and pits him against the mystic Rasputin, who entranced the czar’s wife with his care of their hemophiliac son. The other strand of the book takes place in 1945 as the war rages on and Pekkala is one of Stalin’s most trusted investigators. The item linking these two sides of the story is a rare icon called “The Shepherd,” which Pekkala believed was destroyed by a mad priest in 1914. When two Russians discover the icon in a grave in a country church outside Berlin, the dictator orders Pekkala to investigate its authenticity. What doesn't change between the two stories is Pekkala, with his fierce intelligence and wounded heart. “There are some things from which a man does not recover,” Eastland writes. “There is no hiding place deep enough inside the catacombs of his brain where he can hide the memories. They will always find their way out, baying like wolves in the black tunnels of his mind until they reach the light again. The only thing that he can do is let them come, fighting the nightmares until even the demons which brought them grow sick of the carnage.” The author takes his fragile hero down some impressively murky tunnels as Pekkala tracks the icon’s origins to a creepy, true-life secret sect of Russian outcasts known as the Skoptsy, or “castrated ones.” Worse, the madmen have gotten their hands on a little-known German nerve agent called the Sartaman Project and are threatening to use their weapon of mass destruction.

Another rousing wartime thriller that gets its facts and its storytelling right.

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-62316-086-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: OPUS

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed...

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Trying his final case at 85, celebrated criminal defense lawyer Sandy Stern defends a Nobel-winning doctor and longtime friend whose cancer wonder drug saved Stern's life but subsequently led to the deaths of others.

Federal prosecutors are charging the eminent doctor, Kiril Pafko, with murder, fraud, and insider trading. An Argentine émigré like Stern, Pafko is no angel. His counselor is certain he sold stock in the company that produced the drug, g-Livia, before users' deaths were reported. The 78-year-old Nobelist is a serial adulterer whose former and current lovers have strong ties to the case. Working for one final time alongside his daughter and proficient legal partner, Marta, who has announced she will close the firm and retire along with her father following the case, Stern must deal not only with "senior moments" before Chief Judge Sonya "Sonny" Klonsky, but also his physical frailty. While taking a deep dive into the ups and downs of a complicated big-time trial, Turow (Testimony, 2017, etc.) crafts a love letter to his profession through his elegiac appreciation of Stern, who has appeared in all his Kindle County novels. The grandly mannered attorney (his favorite response is "Just so") has dedicated himself to the law at great personal cost. But had he not spent so much of his life inside courtrooms, "He never would have known himself." With its bland prosecutors, frequent focus on technical details like "double-blind clinical trials," and lack of real surprises, the novel likely will disappoint some fans of legal thrillers. But this smoothly efficient book gains timely depth through its discussion of thorny moral issues raised by a drug that can extend a cancer sufferer's life expectancy at the risk of suddenly ending it.

A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed Innocent.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4813-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 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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