SWIMMING TO CATALINA

Even though Stone Barrington is back from the Caribbean (Dead in the Water, 1997), the debonair attorney-adventurer seems to spend half his time, as the title indicates, in the water—though mostly, like the book, treading water or plain floundering. A panicked call from movie star Vance Calder, who married Stone’s longtime lover Arrington Carter three months ago, tells Stone that Arrington has disappeared and begs him for help. But by the time Centurion Studios’ private jet lands Stone in La-La Land, Vance is singing another tune: Arrington’s fine, she’s just overwhelmed by her pregnancy, she’s gone away to think things over, she’s phoning Vance every day. The first, vastly more entertaining half of the resulting tale is nothing more than a series of artless detours away from Arrington, each detour paved with superlatives. Stone presses flesh with wheeler-dealer David Sturmack, the most powerful man in Hollywood. Centurion boss Louis Regenstein, who thinks Stone would make a great actor, gets him a screen test, the best anybody’s ever seen. Even the folks in wardrobe rave. (Stone’s a perfect 42 Long.) Meantime, Stone’s struck up intimate relations with two strikingly beautiful women whose deepest loyalties aren—t to him. He’s also taken an instant suspicion to big-time banker Onofrio Ippolito—and so have we, thanks to a heavy-handed prologue that showed Stone plummeting to a watery grave, courtesy of the Ippolito anchor he’s chained to. Once Stone gets loose from that anchor, it’s time for the second, far more obligatory installment, as he sets about rescuing Arrington, who’s obviously been kidnaped, and tracing the crime (and many others) to Ippolito, Sturmack, and Co., with the help of some antique trickery (rescues from sinking ships, bullet-firing pens) that wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow in the earliest James Bond films. Such leftovers don’t make very tasty or nutritious fare, not even when the virtues of every predictable scrap are extolled at the top of the author’s stentorian voice.(Book-of-the-Month Club alternate selection; $250,000 ad/promo)

Pub Date: May 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-06-018369-1

Page Count: 313

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1998

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

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

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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Child builds tension to unbearable extremes, then blows it out in sharply choreographed violence, even if his plot has more...

ECHO BURNING

From the Jack Reacher series , Vol. 5

Smashingly suspenseful fifth in Child’s series (Running Blind, 2000, etc.) lands this British author’s rootless, laconic action hero in southwest Texas, where a femme fatale lures him into a family squabble that inevitably turns violent.

In the kind of daylight-noir setting that Jim Thompson loved, ex-military cop Jack Reacher has his thumb out on a lonely west Texas highway when he’s picked up by Carmine Greer, the Mexican-American wife of bad-ol’-boy Sloop Greer. It seems that Sloop, elder son of a white-trash-turned-oil-rich ranching dynasty, is nearing the end of a prison term for tax evasion, and Carmine, whose body Reacher sees is marked with signs of physical abuse, wants Reacher to be her bodyguard—or, failing that, kill the man in such a way that Carmine can still hold on to her terminally cute six-year-old daughter Ellie. Reacher refuses but decides to meet the folks: Rusty, Sloop’s racist, charmless mother, and Bobby, Sloop’s stupid, pugnacious brother. Meanwhile, a trio of paid assassins is littering the Texas roadside with corpses, starting with Sloop’s lawyer, Al Eugene. In a set-piece as good as anything in Elmore Leonard, Bobby sends two ranch-hands to ambush Reacher at an Abilene roadhouse filled with 20 other cowboys spoiling for a fight. Reacher walks away without a scratch, telling Bobby that his hospitalized ranch-hands have “quit.” Child twists his increasingly hokey plot into a pretzel when Sloop is found dead and Carmine confesses to killing him. Reacher just can’t believe that Carmine is guilty and teams up with Alice Aarons, a leggy Jewish lesbian fresh out of law school, who trusts him with her car, her handgun, and her life.

Child builds tension to unbearable extremes, then blows it out in sharply choreographed violence, even if his plot has more holes in it than the shirt Reacher uses for target practice.

Pub Date: July 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-14726-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2001

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