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

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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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An enjoyable read. Berry’s fans won’t be disappointed.

THE WARSAW PROTOCOL

Holy relics, a salt mine, and treachery feature in this 15th entry in the author’s Cotton Malone series (The Malta Exchange, 2019, etc.).

Former lawyer and American intelligence officer Cotton Malone is now a bookseller who goes to Bruges, Belgium, for an antiquarian book fair. He’s hired by a former boss to steal the Holy Lance, one of the seven “weapons of Christ,” or Arma Christi. That is the price of admission to a secret auction, in which various countries will bid on compromising information about Poland’s president, Janusz Czajkowski. The point? Czajkowski is an honorable man who will not allow the U.S. to build a missile system on Polish soil, and the EU– and NATO-hating U.S. President Fox is one of several people who want the Polish leader out of the way at all costs. “If I wanted a conscience, I’d buy one,” Fox says. Readers will have to pay close attention to suss out the meaning of Czajkowski’s Warsaw Protocol because the author hardly hammers it home. But the story is fun regardless, especially with characters like the smart and resourceful Malone and the Polish foreign intelligence officer Sonia Draga, “a fortress, often scaled and assaulted, but never conquered.” The complex plot leads to a magnificent Polish salt mine (a real place) that’s hundreds of meters deep with nine layers, has hundreds of miles of tunnels, brine lakes people can’t sink in, and lots of tourists. Berry builds suspense nicely, allowing readers to anticipate the violence that eventually comes. To a great extent, the novel is a richly detailed homage to Poland, its culture, and its ability to survive so many invasions over the centuries. The connection between Arma Christi and an unwanted American missile system feels a wee bit iffy, but at least the latter won’t be called the Holy Lance.

An enjoyable read. Berry’s fans won’t be disappointed.

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-14030-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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King fans won’t be disappointed, though most will likely prefer the scarier likes of The Shining and It.

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THE INSTITUTE

The master of modern horror returns with a loose-knit parapsychological thriller that touches on territory previously explored in Firestarter and Carrie.

Tim Jamieson is a man emphatically not in a hurry. As King’s (The Outsider, 2018, etc.) latest opens, he’s bargaining with a flight attendant to sell his seat on an overbooked run from Tampa to New York. His pockets full, he sticks out his thumb and winds up in the backwater South Carolina town of DuPray (should we hear echoes of “pray”? Or “depraved”?). Turns out he’s a decorated cop, good at his job and at reading others (“You ought to go see Doc Roper,” he tells a local. “There are pills that will brighten your attitude”). Shift the scene to Minneapolis, where young Luke Ellis, precociously brilliant, has been kidnapped by a crack extraction team, his parents brutally murdered so that it looks as if he did it. Luke is spirited off to Maine—this is King, so it’s got to be Maine—and a secret shadow-government lab where similarly conscripted paranormally blessed kids, psychokinetic and telepathic, are made to endure the Skinnerian pain-and-reward methods of the evil Mrs. Sigsby. How to bring the stories of Tim and Luke together? King has never minded detours into the unlikely, but for this one, disbelief must be extra-willingly suspended. In the end, their forces joined, the two and their redneck allies battle the sophisticated secret agents of The Institute in a bloodbath of flying bullets and beams of mental energy (“You’re in the south now, Annie had told these gunned-up interlopers. She had an idea they were about to find out just how true that was"). It’s not King at his best, but he plays on current themes of conspiracy theory, child abuse, the occult, and Deep State malevolence while getting in digs at the current occupant of the White House, to say nothing of shadowy evil masterminds with lisps.

King fans won’t be disappointed, though most will likely prefer the scarier likes of The Shining and It.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-9821-1056-7

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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