Plenty of flaws in the main character but few in this satisfying thriller.

MAKE THEM CRY

A Drug Enforcement Administration agent heads south of the border on her own, to the regret of many.

Diane “Hardball” Harbaugh has helped put a lot of drug dealers behind bars. “You got two speeds, girl,” her partner says. “Legal eagle and meth dealer.” A confidential informant named Oscar tracks her down in a northern Michigan cabin and shoots himself right in front of her, saying she’s ruined his life. She wonders, “Did she make all the boys cry?” The suicide means she has a whole lot to explain to her superiors, but her troubles quickly become more pressing. A mysterious caller summons her to Mexico to meet a drug lord named El Capataz, who says he needs her help. Her partner wisely advises, “You’re not going to meet a cartel underboss without backup, Diane.” So does she coordinate a response with her superiors? Noooooo, she goes on her own without backup, “half-cocked” and completely against protocol, hoping for a big win to salvage her career. El Capataz has his own reasons to tell her an “enorme” secret, but Diane doesn’t really know if she’ll live or die. “There’s no telling which way your luck’s actually running till the whole thing’s been played out,” her soon-to-be-left-behind partner says, and then it’s too late. The woman has a whole lot more bravery than sense, but that makes for the good story this is. There’s plenty of violence and sharp shards of Spanish-language profanity from men like Tomás, a Zeta gang member with only one skill: He knows how to “delete” people. In this world, “Cash is the chain of command. Money gives the orders.” The story has great lines like “he was as fit as an orchestra of fiddles” and “her whole body was smiling.” Whether or not Hardball’s body still smiles at the end of her journey is for the reader to discover. Either way, she is one tough mujer.

Plenty of flaws in the main character but few in this satisfying thriller.

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-282517-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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Crave chills and thrills but don’t have time for a King epic? This will do the job before bedtime. Not that you’ll sleep.

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LATER

Horrormeister King follows a boy’s journey from childhood to adolescence among the dead—and their even creepier living counterparts.

Jamie Conklin sees dead people. Not for very long—they fade away after a week or so—but during that time he can talk to them, ask them questions, and compel them to answer truthfully. His uncanny gift at first seems utterly unrelated to his mother Tia’s work as a literary agent, but the links become disturbingly clear when her star client, Regis Thomas, dies shortly after starting work on the newest entry in his bestselling Roanoke Saga, and Tia and her lover, NYPD Detective Liz Dutton, drive Jamie out to Cobblestone Cottage to encourage the late author to dictate an outline of his latest page-turner so that Tia, who’s fallen on hard times, can write it in his name instead of returning his advance and her cut. Now that she’s seen what Jamie can do, Liz takes it on herself to arrange an interview in which Jamie will ask Kenneth Therriault, a serial bomber who’s just killed himself, where he’s stowed his latest explosive device before it can explode posthumously. His post-mortem encounter with Therriault exacts a high price on Jamie, who now finds himself more haunted than ever, though he never gives up on the everyday experiences in which King roots all his nightmares.

Crave chills and thrills but don’t have time for a King epic? This will do the job before bedtime. Not that you’ll sleep.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-7890-9649-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Hard Case Crime

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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Densely plotted and replete with incident if you can overlook the insufferable narrator.

WIN

Memo to fans who’ve longed for Windsor Horne Lockwood III, the moneyed, omnicompetent buddy of sports agent Myron Bolitar, to snag a starring role of his own: Beware what you wish for.

Nothing would connect privileged Win with the murder of the reclusive tenant of an exclusive Upper West Side building if the police hadn’t found a painting inside Ry Strauss’ apartment—a Vermeer belonging to Win’s family that was stolen long ago while on loan to Haverford College—along with a monogrammed suitcase belonging to Win himself. The two discoveries tie Win not only to the murder, but to the Jane Street Six, a group of student activists Strauss led even longer ago. The Six’s most notoriously subversive action, the bombing of an empty building in 1973, left several innocents accidentally dead and the law determined to track down the perps. But except for Vanessa Hogan, whom Billy Rowan tearfully visited soon after the bombing to beg her forgiveness for his role in bringing about the death of her son, no one’s seen hide nor hair of the Six ever since. The roots of the outrage go even deeper for Win, whose uncle, Aldrich Powers Lockwood, was killed and whose cousin, Patricia, to whom he’d given that suitcase, was one of 10 women kidnapped, imprisoned, and raped in an unsolved crime. These meaty complications are duly unfolded, and gobs of cash thrown at them, by the ludicrously preening, self-infatuated Win, who announces, “It’s good to be me,” and “I can be charming when I want to be.” As if.

Densely plotted and replete with incident if you can overlook the insufferable narrator.

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4821-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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