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

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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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From the Jack Reacher series , Vol. 1

Welcome to Margrave, Georgia—but don't get too attached to the townsfolk, who are either in on a giant conspiracy, or hurtling toward violent deaths, or both. There's not much of a welcome for Jack Reacher, a casualty of the Army's peace dividend, who's drifted into town idly looking for traces of a long-dead black jazzman. Not only do the local cops arrest him for murder, but the chief of police turns eyewitness to place him on the scene, even though Reacher was getting on a bus in Tampa at the time. Two surprises follow: The murdered man wasn't the only victim, and he was Reacher's brother Joe, whom he hadn't seen in seven years. So Reacher, who so far hasn't had anything personally against the crooks who set him up for a weekend in the state pen at Warburton, clicks into overdrive. Banking on the help of the only two people in Margrave he can trust—a Harvard-educated chief of detectives who hasn't been on the job long enough to be on the take, and a smart, scrappy officer who's taken him to her bed—he sets out methodically in his brother's footsteps, trying to figure out why his cellmate in Warburton, a panicky banker whose cell-phone number turned up in Joe's shoe, confessed to a murder he obviously didn't commit; trying to figure out why all the out-of- towners on Joe's list of recent contacts were as dead as he was; and trying to stop the local carnage, or at least direct it in more positive ways. Though the testosterone flows as freely as printer's ink, Reacher is an unobtrusively sharp detective in his quieter moments—not that there are many of them to judge by. Despite the crude, tough-naif narration, debut novelist Child serves up a big, rangy plot, menace as palpable as a ticking bomb, and enough battered corpses to make an undertaker grin.

Pub Date: March 17, 1997

ISBN: 0-399-14253-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1997

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