Never lags for intrigue as it interweaves the lives of Thai street children with a tale of political power gone bad.

BREATHING WATER

Half Filipino, half-American travel writer and unlikely action hero Poke Rafferty (The Fourth Watcher, 2008, etc.) once again gives in to his penchant for finding trouble on the streets of Bangkok.

Poke has it all: A smart, stunning Thai wife named Rose, an adopted daughter, Miaow, and a thriving career as an author and journalist. But Rose is no ordinary wife, having escaped the sleazy bar scene with Poke’s help and encouragement, and Miaow once cruised the streets as part of a gang of homeless kids. Now both are firmly family, but Poke’s tendency to keep digging in places he probably shouldn’t puts both his and their lives in jeopardy. His latest problem starts with a less-than-ordinary poker game involving his police friend Arthit and a legendary billionaire named Pan. Once a small-time thug, Pan used his considerable skills to turn himself into a tycoon. But Pan’s past is a source of both mystery and speculation, and writing Pan’s biography is the Holy Grail of Thai writers. Although past scribes who attempted this literary coup failed to deliver, Poke has an inside track: Pan agrees to cooperate with him, although the mighty man’s cooperation doesn’t come willingly. Soon Poke discovers that having Pan’s permission to delve into his underworld dealings doesn’t mean smooth sailing—in fact, just the opposite. There are also powerful people determined to stop Roke, even if that means killing his entire family and anyone who helps him. As Poke tries desperately to sort the bad guys from the good, a young friend from his past resurfaces, and Arthit deals with a personal tragedy that could destroy him. Hallinan’s prose will engage readers, but first they’ll need to overlook such small bits of silliness in the plot as a pig sty in an expensive mansion.

Never lags for intrigue as it interweaves the lives of Thai street children with a tale of political power gone bad.

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-06-167223-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2009

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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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Sure to be a bestseller, but the guy’s phoning it in.

THE CAMEL CLUB

A lukewarm would-be potboiler of uninvolving intrigue about a kooky quartet of conspiracy theorists—one by the name of “Oliver Stone”—who witness the murder of a federal agent.

Almost 8,000 Americans have died in attacks on U.S. soil. Rocket-propelled grenades have pierced the White House, there’s been another prison fiasco in Afghanistan, a dozen soldiers are dying every day and the war has opened a new front on the Syrian border. Thus the author’s bleak imagining of the near future. Throughout, Baldacci (Hour Game, 2004, etc.) drops reliable twists, revealing the federal agent murder to be—surprise—a minuscule piece of a much bigger plot involving snipers, nukes, a presidential kidnapping and an even gloomier vision of the future. Baldacci is not a particularly graceful writer, e.g., “Like all Secret Service agents, his suits were designed a little big in the chest, to disguise the bulge of the weapon.” Worse is the author’s chronic inability to draw convincing characters. Scooby-Doo had villains more complicated than these; distinctive quirks of the characters, such as one wearing 19th-century clothing, make them only mildly interesting. Baldacci himself seems only partly engaged in the task here. He writes as if he imagines his typical reader to be a business traveler staring down a long layover.

Sure to be a bestseller, but the guy’s phoning it in.

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2005

ISBN: 0-446-57738-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2005

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