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



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


Page Count: 343

Publisher: Western Isles Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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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.


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.


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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