Reading the initial book in the series first makes this taut thriller much more satisfying.

THE KEY

Former British television writer, producer and director Toyne cranks up the drama with the second entry in a conspiracy thriller series.

Taking up where the first volume (Sanctus, 2011) left off, New Jersey news reporter Liv Adamsen awakens to find herself hospitalized in the small Turkish town of Ruin. Liv is not alone: Kathryn Mann and a monk from the Citadel are also recovering from injuries sustained when fleeing the mysterious fortress. However, there are forces at hand determined to destroy all three, and that is something Kathryn’s son, Gabriel, cannot allow to happen. Gabriel helps Liv escape and find her way back home to the U.S., then begins to look for a way to return to the Citadel, which is now seemingly under assault from nature itself. Blighted trees and a dying garden have spread their disease to the humans who occupy the Catholic fortress, and no one knows how to stop what appears to be an impending worldwide catastrophe. As the Vatican’s moneyman, Cardinal Secretary Clementi, plots to eliminate Liv and her co-conspirators, Gabriel forges an alliance to help fend off what appears to be the realization of the End of Days. As he battles to save Liv from a terrible fate, Gabriel finds that one of the most important events of his life was a lie and that allies exist in places he would never have suspected. Toyne's first novel, Sanctus, set up the story of the Citadel and the mysterious thing it guards. Well-written, fast-paced and delivered with an admirable economy of words, this book offers an edge-of-the-seat story filled with action and adventure, as well as a puzzle that the main characters must somehow put together before the world simply disappears. If the book has a flaw, it’s that it doesn’t stand alone, and readers who have not progressed from the first book to the second will spend the first half trying to figure out what’s happening.

Reading the initial book in the series first makes this taut thriller much more satisfying.

Pub Date: June 19, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-203833-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

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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

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The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once...

DELIVER US FROM EVIL

In Baldacci’s 19th (True Blue, 2009, etc.), boy and girl monster-hunters meet cute.

Evan Waller, aka Fadir Kuchin, aka “the Butcher of Kiev,” aka “the Ukrainian psychopath,” is one of those deep-dyed villains a certain kind of fiction can’t do without. Serving with distinction as part of the Soviet Union’s KGB, he joyfully and indiscriminately killed thousands. Now, many years later, posing as a successful businessman, he’s vacationing in Provence where, unbeknownst to him, two separate clandestine operations are being mounted by people who do not regard him with favor. Reggie Campion—28 and gorgeous—spearheads the first, an ad hoc group of monster-hunting vigilantes. Studly, tall Shaw (no first name supplied) is point guard for a rival team, shadowy enough to leave the matter of its origin ambiguous. While their respective teams reconnoiter and jockey for position, studly boy meets gorgeous girl. Monster-hunters are famous for having trust issues, but clearly these are drawn to each other in the time-honored Hollywood fashion. Shaw saves Reggie’s life. She returns the favor. The attraction deepens and heats up to the point where team-members on both sides grow unsettled by the loss of focus, singularly inopportune since, as monsters go, Waller rises to the second coming of Caligula—ample testimony furnished by a six-page, unsparingly detailed torture scene. In the end, the stalkers strike, bullets fly, screams curdle the blood, love has its innings and a monster does what a monster’s got to do.

The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once again show the stuff it’s made of.

Pub Date: April 20, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-446-56408-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Avon A/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2010

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