Despite occasional affecting moments, the plot is essentially thin, unsustained by a cast of larger- than-life,...

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THE JAGUAR

A Mexican drug dealer kidnaps the composer wife of an L.A. cop and holds her for a song.

Well, not just an ordinary song, but a narcocorrido, a kind of folk ballad dedicated to making heroes out of villains: drug dealers, gun-runners, kidnappers and the like. True enough, there’s ransom money earning a mention somewhere along the line, but nobody really takes that seriously. It’s the music that counts. Benjamin Armenta is the leader of Mexico’s powerful Gulf Cartel, as ruthless a collection of rascals as ever battened on the border drug trade. But he sees himself as uncelebrated, as an unsung anti-hero, which in his view amounts to a miscarriage of justice, considering the nature and frequency of the crimes for which he’s become infamous. The kidnapping of Erin McKenna, songwriter of note, is meant to fix all that. Bradley Jones, Erin’s bent cop of a husband, gets 10 days to raise the cash while performing certain auxiliary tasks—no mention of music at this early stage—or Armenta will arrange to have his wife skinned alive, a threat to be taken literally. Erin is whisked away to Armenta’s secret castle-fortress, where she will play out an oddball version of Beauty and the Beast. Meanwhile, knowing how much he needs help, Bradley reluctantly appeals to Charlie Hood, series hero (The Border Lords, 2011, etc.) and sometime friend. It’s a classic love-hate relationship in the context of Charlie’s intense and enduring feeling for Erin. So he signs on, and they mount the quest to locate and rescue Erin, who, deep in the cheerless Yucatan jungle, fraught and beset, composes to save her life.

Despite occasional affecting moments, the plot is essentially thin, unsustained by a cast of larger- than-life, empathy-proof characters. A rare misstep from the accomplished Parker.

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-525-95257-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

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Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

THE SILENT PATIENT

A woman accused of shooting her husband six times in the face refuses to speak.

"Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband. They had been married for seven years. They were both artists—Alicia was a painter, and Gabriel was a well-known fashion photographer." Michaelides' debut is narrated in the voice of psychotherapist Theo Faber, who applies for a job at the institution where Alicia is incarcerated because he's fascinated with her case and believes he will be able to get her to talk. The narration of the increasingly unrealistic events that follow is interwoven with excerpts from Alicia's diary. Ah, yes, the old interwoven diary trick. When you read Alicia's diary you'll conclude the woman could well have been a novelist instead of a painter because it contains page after page of detailed dialogue, scenes, and conversations quite unlike those in any journal you've ever seen. " 'What's the matter?' 'I can't talk about it on the phone, I need to see you.' 'It's just—I'm not sure I can make it up to Cambridge at the minute.' 'I'll come to you. This afternoon. Okay?' Something in Paul's voice made me agree without thinking about it. He sounded desperate. 'Okay. Are you sure you can't tell me about it now?' 'I'll see you later.' Paul hung up." Wouldn't all this appear in a diary as "Paul wouldn't tell me what was wrong"? An even more improbable entry is the one that pins the tail on the killer. While much of the book is clumsy, contrived, and silly, it is while reading passages of the diary that one may actually find oneself laughing out loud.

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30169-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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This thriller about the pursuit of a serial killer suffers from an unpleasant hero and a glacial pace.

OUTFOX

An FBI agent is determined to catch a man who bilks and murders wealthy women, but the chase goes slowly.

Brown (Tailspin, 2018, etc.) has published 70 bestsellers, and this one employs her usual template of thriller spiked with romance. Its main character, Drex Easton, is an FBI agent in pursuit of a serial killer, but for him it’s personal. When he was a boy, his mother left him and his father for another man, Weston Graham. Drex believes Graham murdered her and that he has killed at least seven more women after emptying their bank accounts. Now he thinks he has the clever Graham—current alias Jasper Ford—in his sights, and he’s willing to put his career at risk to catch him. The women Ford targets are wealthy, and his new prey is no exception—except that, uncharacteristically, he has married her. Talia Ford proves to be a complication for Drex, who instantly falls in lust with her even though he’s not at all sure she isn’t her husband's accomplice. Posing as a would-be novelist, Drex moves into an apartment next door to the Fords’ posh home and tries to ingratiate himself, but tensions rise immediately—Jasper is suspicious, and Talia has mixed feelings about Drex's flirtatious behavior. When Talia’s fun-loving friend Elaine Conner turns up dead after a cruise on her yacht and Jasper disappears, Drex and Talia become allies. There are a few action sequences and fewer sex scenes, but the novel’s pace bogs down repeatedly in long, mundane conversations. Drex's two FBI agent sidekicks are more interesting characters than he is; Drex himself is such a caricature of a macho man, so heedless of ethics, and so aggressive toward women that it’s tough to see him as a good guy. Brown adds a couple of implausible twists at the very end that make him seem almost as untrustworthy as Graham.

This thriller about the pursuit of a serial killer suffers from an unpleasant hero and a glacial pace.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4555-7219-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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