A thriller with fine worldbuilding that lays the foundation for further adventures in a dangerous and ethically ambiguous...


A newspaper reporter faces a literal deadline when his editor assigns him to investigate a Mexican drug lord.

One fateful evening in 1993, El Paso Tribune photographer Eddie Stevenson walks into his editor Ken Perry’s office, his face a bloody mess. When the editor asks what happened, the photog say that thugs, sent by wealthy Mexican drug lord Gustavo Jiménez, beat him up, smashed his cameras, and told him to deliver a message to crime reporter Tom Harley, telling him that he’s “dead meat.” The beating becomes front-page news and emboldens Perry: “We’re going to expose that señor and his whole rotten business,” he tells the Associated Press, “even if it takes us to the president of Mexico.” But is Harley the right reporter for the assignment? “Harley was lazy, an anthropologist” is the office scuttlebutt, so, in order to “light a fire under the story,” the editors put reporter Hank Klinger on it—and to light a fire under him, they mention the story’s Pulitzer Prize possibilities. The assault and the national press attention it draws set in motion a twisty, suspenseful thriller in which players on both sides of the border act on increasingly suspect motives. Baker, author of The Boost (2014), cannily sets his story in the early 1990s, when newspapers, big and small, could topple governments, and reporters weren’t dismissed as purveyors of “fake news.” The author, a former journalist for the El Paso Herald-Post during the same time period, not only knows the lay of the land, but also the ins and outs of news reporting. At one point, a journalist realizes that he’d neglected to report a major crime: “He’d played detective and forgotten about his job. Burying a story like that could get him fired.” It’s a densely populated narrative, but some characters stand out, such as banker Diana Clements, Stevenson’s unlikely girlfriend, in whom savvy readers will sense a bit of danger.

A thriller with fine worldbuilding that lays the foundation for further adventures in a dangerous and ethically ambiguous milieu.

Pub Date: March 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-63988-299-1

Page Count: 348

Publisher: Atmosphere Press

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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A well-turned, if predictable, installment in the popular series.


With the United States the “closest [it’s] been to war” in a lifetime, intelligence operative Jack Ryan Jr. faces stiff odds in trying to avert disaster with China.

Trouble with China begins brewing (yet again in the Clancy books) with the rendition of a Chinese scientist and the killing of his American brother, a specialist in machine learning. With a sniper attack on the German outpost of The Campus, Ryan’s “off-the-books” agency, and the downing of an American plane over the South China Sea, U.S. efforts to recover a Chinese undersea glider capable of detecting a $3 billion American stealth submarine are in jeopardy. Things look especially grim with the capture of crash survivor John Clark, Ryan’s boss and a close compadre of his father, President Jack Ryan Sr. With Ryan Sr. still shaken by the abduction of his wife a year ago and Ryan Jr. doubtful of his abilities as a team leader, it's up to intelligence director Mary Pat Foley to calm the waters with her expertise and strong will. One possible outcome is a Chinese attack on Taiwan. In Bentley’s third outing in the series, it takes a while to get past cookie cutter stuff: Many pages go by before the reader knows what all the tense language, chase scenes, and international travel are about. But the book's cool, checkerboard efficiency eventually takes hold. And the streaks of vulnerability that run through the Ryans impart a human dimension that most such thrillers lack. Bentley also takes pains to distinguish the novel from fake fiction: “Unlike in the movies, getting struck by a rifle round moving at several thousand feet per second was not insignificant.”

A well-turned, if predictable, installment in the popular series.

Pub Date: May 23, 2023

ISBN: 9780593422786

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2023

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.


Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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