A dark thriller to keep the reading lamp turned on long into the night; recommended.

GOING DARK

From the Officer St Claire series , Vol. 1

In this London-based novel, the deputy director of MI5 must untangle herself from blackmail; an enraged woman vows to regain her husband’s affection; and international terrorists rev up their demands.

In Duncan’s (Quantum of Evidence, 2018, etc.) series opener, MI5 Deputy Director Deborah Mackenzie fears a male escort may expose their relationship. The man, Connor “Black Irish” O’Connor, is “a rising star in the exploding cybersecurity galaxy” who enjoys a double life trysting for cash and may be participating in the dark arts of international terrorism. Under false pretenses, Mackenzie tasks MI5 surveillance officer Kate St. Claire with digging up dirt on the gigolo that she can use to silence him. Kate just completed a period of compassionate leave following the deaths of her parents, Lord Jonathan St. Claire and his wife. A car bomb killed the pair and gravely injured Kate. The auto was Kate’s Alfa Romeo Spider, parked in the garage of her Mayfair Mews house when Lord Jonathan turned on the ignition. The previous evening was such a happy one for Kate, one she shared with Tariq Kassar, the Lebanese banker she dated since her father introduced them 16 months earlier. But Kate’s relationship with Tariq incenses his estranged wife, Nadia Sultan, unafraid of violence and accustomed to stalking her replacement. Suspiciously, Tariq virtually disappears after the explosion, leading some to believe that he’s involved in nefarious activities and that he may have rigged the Spider. Yet Kate believes her beau simply dumped her and that the bombing was connected to one of her work assignments. Duncan juggles numerous plots, most of which come together but some of which undoubtedly will be tackled in later books in the series. It’s refreshing to have strong, culpable female characters whose actions range from engaging in questionable activities (nude modeling, affairs with married men) to committing murder. Several characters have multiple aliases, which can be confusing. But descriptions are rich, and the pace is fast and furious as Kate seeks answers to professional and personal problems in England, France, and Morocco.

A dark thriller to keep the reading lamp turned on long into the night; recommended.

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2017

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 343

Publisher: Western Isles Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless...

SPLIT SECOND

Two defrocked Secret Service Agents investigate the assassination of one presidential candidate and the kidnapping of another.

Baldacci (The Christmas Train, 2002, etc.) sets out with two plot strands. The first begins when something distracts Secret Service Agent Sean King and during that “split second,” presidential candidate Clyde Ritter is shot dead. King takes out the killer, but that’s not enough to save his reputation with the Secret Service. He retires and goes on to do often tedious but nonetheless always lucrative work (much like a legal thriller such as this) at a law practice. Plot two begins eight years later when another Secret Service Agent, Michelle Maxwell, lets presidential candidate John Bruno out of her sight for a few minutes at a wake for one of his close associates. He goes missing. Now Maxwell, too, gets in dutch with the SS. Though separated by time, the cases are similar and leave several questions unanswered. What distracted King at the rally? Bruno had claimed his friend’s widow called him to the funeral home. The widow (one of the few characters here to have any life) says she never called Bruno. Who set him up? Who did a chambermaid at Ritter’s hotel blackmail? And who is the man in the Buick shadowing King’s and Maxwell’s every move? King is a handsome, rich divorce, Maxwell an attractive marathon runner. Will they join forces and find each other kind of, well, appealing? But of course. The two former agents traverse the countryside, spinning endless hypotheses before the onset, at last, of a jerrybuilt conclusion that begs credibility and offers few surprises.

Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless concoction.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2003

ISBN: 0-446-53089-1

Page Count: 406

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2003

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