A thriller with estimable lead characters and engrossing villains that make up for an occasionally muddled plot.



Espionage agencies again call upon a forensic dentist’s expertise when it appears that Adolf Hitler may have fathered two sons in Woods-Frankel’s (False Impressions, 2012) second book in his historical mystery series.

In 1992, Dr. Steve Landau, in Israel to give a lecture at the Mossad Forensic Institute, is enjoying vacation time with his girlfriend, forensic psychologist Nita Lazar. But his plans change when CIA agent Herb Robinson and KGB Col. Mischa Kovalyov tell him that they need his help. They need him to confirm recent intel that the buried body of Hitler isn’t actually the dictator at all. Steve’s forensic dental skills validate the suspicion, and additional information suggests that the late Soviet leader Josef Stalin, who was sterile, may have used Hitler’s semen to impregnate two women, who each had a son. With the FBI’s assistance, Steve and his colleagues track down one of the sons in America, a wealthy, dangerous arms dealer. This mystery/thriller revels in its alternative history, spending a large part of the book in a flashback focusing on Hitler at the end of World War II. Later, the story moves into the 1960s to focus on his sons, Josif and Iliyich, who take notably different paths in life. Initially, this section doesn’t move much beyond what Steve, Nita and Herb have already learned, but it’s enthralling nonetheless. Steve and Nita are engaging protagonists, adept with weapons and close-quarters combat, and they stubbornly refuse to abandon the investigation. But that investigation can be confusing at times; for example, it’s initially unclear why the search for Josif is so urgent, although it becomes clearer when they realize he may be planning an attack on the United States. The plot also sometimes relies on coincidence, such as the brothers’ convenient reunion in America. However, Woods-Frankel keeps the tension high by taking his heroes through a gunfight, a kidnapping, and a tragic death or two.

A thriller with estimable lead characters and engrossing villains that make up for an occasionally muddled plot.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-1910105092

Page Count: 276

Publisher: Netherworld Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2014

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...


Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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Thoroughbreds and Virginia blue-bloods cavort, commit murder, and fall in love in Roberts's (Hidden Riches, 1994, etc.) latest romantic thriller — this one set in the world of championship horse racing. Rich, sheltered Kelsey Byden is recovering from a recent divorce when she receives a letter from her mother, Naomi, a woman she has believed dead for over 20 years. When Kelsey confronts her genteel English professor father, though, he sheepishly confesses that, no, her mother isn't dead; throughout Kelsey's childhood, she was doing time for the murder of her lover. Kelsey meets with Naomi and not only finds her quite charming, but the owner of Three Willows, one of the most splendid horse farms in Virginia. Kelsey is further intrigued when she meets Gabe Slater, a blue-eyed gambling man who owns a neighboring horse farm; when one of Gabe's horses is mated with Naomi's, nostrils flare, flanks quiver, and the romance is on. Since both Naomi and Gabe have horses entered in the Kentucky Derby, Kelsey is soon swept into the whirlwind of the Triple Crown, in spite of her family's objections to her reconciliation with the notorious Naomi. The rivalry between the two horse farms remains friendly, but other competitors — one of them is Gabe's father, a vicious alcoholic who resents his son's success — prove less scrupulous. Bodies, horse and human, start piling up, just as Kelsey decides to investigate the murky details of her mother's crime. Is it possible she was framed? The ground is thick with no-goods, including haughty patricians, disgruntled grooms, and jockeys with tragic pasts, but despite all the distractions, the identity of the true culprit behind the mayhem — past and present — remains fairly obvious. The plot lopes rather than races to the finish. Gambling metaphors abound, and sexual doings have a distinctly equine tone. But Roberts's style has a fresh, contemporary snap that gets the story past its own worst excesses.

Pub Date: June 13, 1995

ISBN: 0-399-14059-X

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995

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