Despite a not-wholly-related narrative thread highlighting Mossad’s mad skills in frustrating Russian-Iranian anti-Israel...


In his latest Bob Lee Swagger adventure, Hunter (The Third Bullet, 2013, etc.) sends the indefatigable warrior into the Carpathian Mountains.

Swagger’s 68 now, retired to the Cascades, his sniper heroics in Vietnam and thereafter left to history books. When long-time friend and veteran reporter Kathy Reilly calls to question him about firearms, Swagger learns that she's investigating Ludmilla Petrova, a blonde beauty known as the White Witch, a World War II Russian sniper. Petrova, despite heroics at Stalingrad, Kursk and elsewhere, has disappeared from postwar records. Reilly’s curious. Swagger’s intrigued. He’s also willing to help, even if it means flying to Russia. With eight Swagger adventures on the books, Hunter knows his hero like a brother: righteous character firmly set, crafty intelligence thoroughly hidden, stone-cold willing to take the shot if a bad actor must die. Swagger and Reilly end up in Ukraine, thwarting evildoers ranging from an off-the-reservation U.S. clandestine operator to a mobbed-up anti-Semitic Russian oligarch with family connections to Nazi-sympathizing WWII double agents. In the Carpathian wilderness, Swagger’s sniper instinct helps Reilly uncover Petrova’s WWII exploits, from Kursk, where she went rogue during the massive tank battle, to tiny, isolated Yaremche, Ukraine, where she was sent on a suicide mission to kill an Obergruppenführer named Groedl. Swagger displays mighty tradecraft, employing a British Enfield sniper rifle secreted in a Carpathian Mountain cave since 1944. Hunter adds an exotic bad guy, Yusef Salid, SS-trained cousin of Jerusalem’s grand mufti, who leads Serbian Nazis into the killing fields, but Hunter doesn’t forget the "good Germans"—a decimated squad of paratroopers trying to do the right thing in spite of the "nutcase paperhanger from Austria." 

Despite a not-wholly-related narrative thread highlighting Mossad’s mad skills in frustrating Russian-Iranian anti-Israel machinations, Hunter loads up a whole magazine of action, double-dealing and gun porn.

Pub Date: May 20, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4516-4021-2

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2014

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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. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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...


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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