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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Greed, love, and extrasensory abilities combine in two middling mysteries.

LABYRINTH

Coulter’s treasured FBI agents take on two cases marked by danger and personal involvement.

Dillon Savitch and his wife, Lacey Sherlock, have special abilities that have served them well in law enforcement (Paradox, 2018, etc.). But that doesn't prevent Sherlock’s car from hitting a running man after having been struck by a speeding SUV that runs a red light. The runner, though clearly injured, continues on his way and disappears. Not so the SUV driver, a security engineer for the Bexholt Group, which has ties to government agencies. Sherlock’s own concussion causes memory loss so severe that she doesn’t recognize Savitch or remember their son, Sean. The whole incident seems more suspicious when a blood test from the splatter of the man Sherlock hit reveals that he’s Justice Cummings, an analyst for the CIA. The agency’s refusal to cooperate makes Savitch certain that Bexholt is involved in a deep-laid plot. Meanwhile, Special Agent Griffin Hammersmith is visiting friends who run a cafe in the touristy Virginia town of Gaffers Ridge. Hammersmith, who has psychic abilities, is taken aback when he hears in his mind a woman’s cry for help. Reporter Carson DeSilva, who came to the area to interview a Nobel Prize winner, also has psychic abilities, and she overhears the thoughts of Rafer Bodine, a young man who has apparently kidnapped and possibly murdered three teenage girls. Unluckily, she blurts out her thoughts, and she’s snatched and tied up in a cellar by Bodine. Bodine may be a killer, but he’s also the nephew of the sheriff and the son of the local bigwig. So the sheriff arrests Hammersmith and refuses to accept his FBI credentials. Bodine's mother has psychic powers strong enough to kill, but she meets her match in Hammersmith, DeSilva, Savitch, and Sherlock.

Greed, love, and extrasensory abilities combine in two middling mysteries.

Pub Date: July 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-9365-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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