An overlong journey through a stranger-than-fiction life.

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RUST & STARDUST

A fictional account of the real-life 1940s kidnapping that inspired Lolita.

On a dare, 11-year-old Sally Horner tries to steal a composition notebook from Woolworth’s one afternoon after school. A man at the lunch counter sees her and poses as an FBI agent. Spinning an elaborate story of a court date and house arrest, the man—who goes by Mr. Warner—tells Sally to meet him the next day after school. He’s prepared a cover story for Sally’s invalid mother and heavily pregnant sister; Sally is to ask permission to go on a family vacation with a friend. So while Sally believes she’s being taken into custody and her family believes she’s headed to the seashore, she is actually commencing a yearslong odyssey across the United States with a sex offender, whose real name is Frank La Salle. Greenwood (The Golden Hour, 2017, etc.) begins the novel by alternating between the perspectives of Sally and her mother and gradually adds in more narrators as the manhunt for Sally expands, from a brother-in-law playing amateur sleuth to a schoolteacher who suspects that something is terribly wrong with the new girl in her classroom. According to the author’s note, reading Sally Horner’s story in the papers may have been the catalyst Nabokov needed to keep the manuscript of Lolita from being relegated to the bonfire. Greenwood’s stated desire is to rescue Horner herself from being “just a footnote to someone else’s story.” It’s true that Sally’s world comes vividly to life. But the book is absolutely stuffed with detail and scenes that don’t move the plot forward, and what should be a breath-holding suspense novel requires a great deal of effort to move through.

An overlong journey through a stranger-than-fiction life.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-16419-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2018

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Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

ONE GOOD DEED

Thriller writer Baldacci (A Minute to Midnight, 2019, etc.) launches a new detective series starring World War II combat vet Aloysius Archer.

In 1949, Archer is paroled from Carderock Prison (he was innocent) and must report regularly to his parole officer, Ernestine Crabtree (she’s “damn fine-looking”). Parole terms forbid his visiting bars or loose women, which could become a problem. Trouble starts when businessman Hank Pittleman offers Archer $100 to recover a ’47 Cadillac that’s collateral for a debt owed by Lucas Tuttle, who readily agrees he owes the money. But Tuttle wants his daughter Jackie back—she’s Pittleman’s girlfriend, and she won’t return to Daddy. Archer finds the car, but it’s been torched. With no collateral to collect, he may have to return his hundred bucks. Meanwhile, Crabtree gets Archer the only job available, butchering hogs at the slaughterhouse. He’d killed plenty of men in combat, and now he needs peace. The Pittleman job doesn’t provide that peace, but at least it doesn’t involve bashing hogs’ brains in. People wind up dead and Archer becomes a suspect. So he noses around and shows that he might have the chops to be a good private investigator, a shamus. This is an era when gals have gams, guys say dang and keep extra Lucky Strikes in their hatbands, and a Lady Liberty half-dollar buys a good meal. The dialogue has a '40s noir feel: “And don’t trust nobody.…I don’t care how damn pretty they are.” There’s adult entertainment at the Cat’s Meow, cheap grub at the Checkered Past, and just enough clichés to prove that no one’s highfalutin. Readers will like Archer. He’s a talented man who enjoys detective stories, won’t keep ill-gotten gains, and respects women. All signs suggest a sequel where he hangs out a shamus shingle.

Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5387-5056-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2019

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Great storytelling about the pursuit of extrajudicial justice.

ONE MINUTE OUT

Ninth in the author’s Gray Man series (Mission Critical, 2019, etc.) in which “the most elite assassin in the world” has his hands full.

Ex–CIA Agent Courtland Gentry (the Gray Man) has Serbian war criminal Ratko Babic in his gun sight, but when he decides instead to kill the old beast face to face, he uncovers a massive sex-slavery ring. “I don’t get off on this,” the Gray Man lies to the reader as he stabs a sentry. “I only kill bad people.” Of course he does. If there weren’t an endless supply of them to slay, he’d have little reason to live. Now, countless young Eastern European women are being lured into sexual slavery and fed into an international pipeline, sold worldwide through “the Consortium.” Bad guys refer to their captives as products, not people. They are “merchandise,” but their plight haunts the Gray Man, so of course he is going to rescue as many women as he can. The road to their salvation will be paved with the dead as he enlists a team of fighters to strike the enemy, which includes a South African dude who is giddy for the chance to meet and kill the Gray Man. Meanwhile, Europol analyst Talyssa Corbu meets the hero while on a personal mission to rescue her sister. “You don’t seem like a psychopath,” she tells him. Indeed, though he could play one on TV. Corbu and her sister are tough and likable characters while the director of the Consortium leads a double life as family man and flesh merchant. Human trafficking is an enormous real-life problem, so it’s satisfying to witness our larger-than-life protagonist put his combat skills to good use. There will be a sequel, of course. As a friend tells the wounded Gentry at the end, he’ll be off killing bozos again before he knows it.

Great storytelling about the pursuit of extrajudicial justice.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09891-2

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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