While action’s fine when it’s plentiful, more attention to character development could have made Camaro more relatable and...

WALK AWAY

Hawken continues the exploits of Camaro Espinoza, a tough female former Army medic, in this shoot-'em-up, action-packed installment set in the sleepy communities that ring Los Angeles.

Camaro’s younger sister, Annabel, has finally broken free of her abusive boyfriend, Jake Collier, but she can’t get him to leave. She talks her sister into coming to her aid, but while Camaro’s straightening him out, Jake’s big brother, Lukas, is busy murdering the bail bondsman who tried to take him into custody in Denver. Meanwhile, Camaro faces off with Jake at his job in a local lumberyard and things don’t go down well for him. As Lukas works his way closer to California to finalize a scheme with his brother, he drags behind him a trail of people set on revenge, including Yates, the father of the bail bondsman he killed, and Way, a deputy U.S. marshal whose partner he murdered. As Camaro seeks to protect her sister, Way and Yates find themselves on opposite sides of Camaro’s cooperation even though all three of them seek the same resolution. Plenty of guns and fisticuffs, as well as a twisty trail to follow, fill this action enthusiast’s tale. And Hawken certainly knows how to keep the action going: Camaro goes from scrape to scrape with barely enough time to treat her own wounds and regroup before the next ambush or assault. But while Hawken writes excellent action/adventure, where he falls down is in bringing his characters to life. Camaro is basically a man with breasts: there's nothing about her that feels female (although her sister is as domestic as Betty Crocker). The bad guys—Lukas the killer and Way the deputy U.S. marshal—are so deranged they devolve into caricatures. Only Yates, the old man whose son has died, resonates as a human being.

While action’s fine when it’s plentiful, more attention to character development could have made Camaro more relatable and provided both villains with some badly needed dimension.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-29926-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Mulholland Books/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 7, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

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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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POP GOES THE WEASEL

After a flight in fantasy with When the Wind Blows (1998), Patterson goes to ground with another slash-and-squirm psychokiller page-turner, this one dedicated to “the millions of Alex Cross readers, who so frequently ask, can’t you write faster?” By day, Geoffrey Shafer is a charming, 42-year-old British Embassy paper-pusher with a picture-perfect family and a shady past as an MI-6 secret agent. Come sundown, he swallows a pharmacy of psychoactive pills, gulps three black coffees loaded with sugar, and roams the streets of Washington, D.C., in a battered cab, where, disguised as a black man, he rolls dice to determine which among his black female fares he—ll murder. Afterwards he dumps his naked victims in crime-infested back alleys of black- slum neighborhoods, then sends e-mails boasting of his accomplishments to three other former MI-6 agents involved in a hellish Internet role-playing game. “I sensed I was at the start of another homicide mess,” sighs forensic-psychologist turned homicide-detective Alex Cross. Cross yearns to catch the “Jane Doe murderer” but is thwarted by Det. Chief George Pittman, who assigns sexy Det. Patsy Hampton to investigate Cross and come up with a reason for dismissing him. Meanwhile, Cross’s fiancÇe is kidnaped during a Bermuda vacation, and an anonymous e-mail warns him to back off. He doesn’t, of course, and just when it appears that Patterson is sleep-walking through his story, Cross nabs Shafer minutes after Shafer kills Det. Hampton. During the subsequent high-visibility trail, Shafer manages to make the jury believe that he’s innocent and that Cross was trying to frame him. When all seems lost, a sympathetic British intelligence chief offers to help Cross bring down Shafer, and the other homicidal game-players, during a showdown on the breezy beaches of Jamaica. Kinky mayhem, a cartoonish villain, regular glimpses of the kindly Cross caring for his loved ones, and an ending that spells a sequel: Patterson’s fans couldn’t ask for more.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 1999

ISBN: 0-316-69328-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1999

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