Though following a path well-worn by the likes of Stephen King and Stieg Larsson, a dark treat for mystery buffs.

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KILL THE FATHER

Dear old dad is a bit of a psychopath, and it’s up to a damaged dynamic duo to stop him from committing more mayhem.

In this American debut by much-published Italian novelist and screenwriter Dazieri, two sleuths join forces in Rome and set about solving one of the nastier crimes in recent memory: a woman is decapitated, and her son is spirited away by a mysterious figure. All fingers point to an obvious suspect, but Dante Torre and Colomba Caselli know better. Colomba, herself “a woman warrior who rode stallions bareback and cut her enemies’ heads off with a scimitar”—figuratively, that is—has been taking time off from the metro police force after one trauma-induced panic attack too many. Dante, for his part, has himself spent time in the custody of the sinister bad guy known as The Father, who once fancied himself an in loco parentis sort of surrogate but hasn’t much been heard of since escaping from the law and has “been on the loose for thirty-five years committing all kinds of foul crimes.” There are twists aplenty as Dante and Colomba track down The Father, even as he spins an ever finer trap for them: there’s the chance that Dante wasn’t the only kidnapped boy to have gotten away from his evil warden, and then there’s the presence of a creepy German guy with a tattoo that, in a nice nod to historical amnesia and modern corporatism, “depicted a small blue bird that vaguely resembled the Twitter logo.” Can Dante fend off his well-earned claustrophobia and Colomba her freakouts long enough to lasso Pops before he slips away to set up psycho shop in another country? Will we ever learn what motivates The Father to his unfatherly acts? It’s worth sticking with Dazieri’s yarn to find out, with a plotline as involved and involving as Jean-Christophe Grangé’s kindred whodunit The Crimson Rivers.

Though following a path well-worn by the likes of Stephen King and Stieg Larsson, a dark treat for mystery buffs.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5011-3073-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2016

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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, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

CROOKED RIVER

FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast finds evil afoot in his latest action-filled adventure (Verses for the Dead, 2018, etc.).

Imagine Florida beachcombers’ shock when they discover a shoe with a severed foot inside. Soon they see dozens more feet, all in identical shoes, bobbing toward the beach. Police and FBI ultimately count more than a hundred of them washing up on Sanibel and Captiva Islands' tranquil shores. Pendergast teams up with the junior Special Agent Armstrong Coldmoon to investigate this strange phenomenon. Oceanographers use a supercomputer to analyze Gulf currents and attempt to determine where the feet entered the ocean. Were they dumped off a ship or an island? Does each one represent a homicide? Analysts examine chemical residues and pollen, even the angle of each foot’s amputation, but the puzzle defies all explanation. Attention focuses on Cuba, where “something terrible was happening” in front of a coastal prison, and on China, the apparent source of the shoes. The clever plot is “a most baffling case indeed” for the brilliant Pendergast, but it’s the type of problem he thrives on. He’s hardly a stereotypical FBI agent, given for example his lemon-colored silk suit, his Panama hat, and his legendary insistence on working alone—until now. Pendergast rarely blinks—perhaps, someone surmises, he’s part reptile. But equally odd is Constance Greene, his “extraordinarily beautiful,” smart, and sarcastic young “ward” who has “eyes that had seen everything and, as a result, were surprised by nothing.” Coldmoon is more down to earth: part Lakota, part Italian, and “every inch a Fed.” Add in murderous drug dealers, an intrepid newspaper reporter, coyotes crossing the U.S.–Mexico border, and a pissed-off wannabe graphic novelist, and you have a thoroughly entertaining cast of characters. There is plenty of suspense, and the action gets bloody.

Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4725-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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