A meaty, entertaining thriller, sometimes predictable, more often not—just the thing for fans of Ludlum, Trevanian and...

WARLORD

From Bell (Nick of Time, 2008, etc.), a James Bondish adventure brought up to date with Middle Eastern terrorists, Russian baddies and assorted other denizens of evil empires around the world.

Alex Hawke is a modern type, but not so modern that he’s given up smoking—or, even if he does read Susan Sontag, that he’s become new-age sensitive. He’s a reader and a thinker, a veteran of British intelligence and a counterterrorism expert of renown. He also bears the burdens of grief. As Bell tells us in a slightly hamfisted bit of exposition, Alex’s parents had been killed “at the hands of drug pirates when the boy was but seven” (which, doing the numbers, would put those drug pirates well ahead of the curve). To top that off, Alex’s true love has fallen victim to the endless struggle between good and evil—or, as he puts it: “My heart’s in the grave.” By rights he should be a basket case, but then comes a call from old pal Prince Charles (yes, that Prince Charles), who informs him that the bloke or blokes who did in his uncle Dickie Mountbatten are back, threatening to repeat their dastardly acts on Charles and his progeny. The plot thickens, involving a small army of walk-on characters, some from real life (think Princess Di and Dodi Fayed) and some from an ample supply of stock characters (for one, an all-wise, ever-patient manservant). Though many genre conventions are well in place, Bell has fun with his tale, allowing Hawke enough opportunities for mayhem and carnage as to embarrass the murderous James Bond of Quantum of Solace—as when, for instance, he dispatches a terrorist, “little more than a boy,” by slicing him apart with an assault knife. That’s exactly in character, and exactly what the situation called for.

A meaty, entertaining thriller, sometimes predictable, more often not—just the thing for fans of Ludlum, Trevanian and Fleming.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-06-185929-8

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2010

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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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Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless...

SPLIT SECOND

Two defrocked Secret Service Agents investigate the assassination of one presidential candidate and the kidnapping of another.

Baldacci (The Christmas Train, 2002, etc.) sets out with two plot strands. The first begins when something distracts Secret Service Agent Sean King and during that “split second,” presidential candidate Clyde Ritter is shot dead. King takes out the killer, but that’s not enough to save his reputation with the Secret Service. He retires and goes on to do often tedious but nonetheless always lucrative work (much like a legal thriller such as this) at a law practice. Plot two begins eight years later when another Secret Service Agent, Michelle Maxwell, lets presidential candidate John Bruno out of her sight for a few minutes at a wake for one of his close associates. He goes missing. Now Maxwell, too, gets in dutch with the SS. Though separated by time, the cases are similar and leave several questions unanswered. What distracted King at the rally? Bruno had claimed his friend’s widow called him to the funeral home. The widow (one of the few characters here to have any life) says she never called Bruno. Who set him up? Who did a chambermaid at Ritter’s hotel blackmail? And who is the man in the Buick shadowing King’s and Maxwell’s every move? King is a handsome, rich divorce, Maxwell an attractive marathon runner. Will they join forces and find each other kind of, well, appealing? But of course. The two former agents traverse the countryside, spinning endless hypotheses before the onset, at last, of a jerrybuilt conclusion that begs credibility and offers few surprises.

Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless concoction.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2003

ISBN: 0-446-53089-1

Page Count: 406

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2003

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