A solid thriller that leaves you thinking it could have been much better.

THE HOPE VENDETTA

On the brink of suicide following his wife's death, one-time British special-forces operative Ben Hope is intent on putting his violent past behind him and studying religion at Oxford. But when a family friend's daughter, a renowned biblical archaeologist, goes missing in Greece—and the young friend Ben sent to find her is killed in a bombing—Ben is forced to dust off his killing skills and spring back into action.

The stakes are big in Mariani's second Hope novel (The Mozart Conspiracy, 2011). Zoë Bradbury is abducted because she says she discovered an artifact that exposes as false the Book of Revelation and its ultimate promise of Rapture. This rankles an international conspiracy bent on using Revelation to orchestrate the destruction of Israel by Islamic forces. The discovery also upsets the plans of Clayton Cleaver, a popular TV evangelist in Georgia who has based his political hopes on the prophecies. Frustrated by Zoë's amnesia, caused by a head injury, her abductors threaten to inject her with a newly invented truth serum that will reduce her to psychotic rubble. Ben's pursuits take him to Savannah, where he learns that Zoë, an Amy Winehouse–like party girl, was blackmailing Cleaver. Rendered unconscious by the bad guys, Hope wakes up in Montana, where he has relatively little trouble dispatching the bad guys with the help of a smitten female CIA agent. The story takes us, finally, to Jerusalem, where Hope must thwart plans to blow up the Dome of the Rock. Mariani constructs the thriller with skill and intelligence, staging some good action scenes, and Hope is an appealing protagonist. However, the book's premise is undercooked. There's little threat of worldwide upheaval, or much of a threat to the principals. The book might well have been better off eschewing its Dan Brown Da Vincisms and turning up the tension on the more grounded elements of the story.

A solid thriller that leaves you thinking it could have been much better.

Pub Date: March 6, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4391-9347-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more