An extremely clever thriller that dazzles on every level.


Death By Arbitrage or Live Low Die High

This third volume in a series of techno-thrillers pits Chester and Urno’s (Death by Tech, 2014, etc.) scientist/sleuth against murderous inside traders.

Halsted Aeronautic Lab scientist and amateur detective Evan Olsson’s latest string of misadventures begins at the Beverly Hills Hotel. He and girlfriend Lissa Larson are enjoying a magical evening when a fire alarm clears the building. Evan keeps the blaze in mind when he begins working with FBI agent Matt Emerson on a nationwide system to catch inside traders. Intending to be more thorough than the Securities and Exchange Commission, they begin by considering “traders who always seem to get it right, who act in advance of public information.” After a corporate jet for the K-Works company goes down, Evan and Matt are alerted to profitable trading activity by Raptor Holdings, run by Festron Bordick. While working this case, Evan juggles a tricky love life: the woman he desires, Lissa, is artistic but distant; the woman who desires him, Holly, is an emotional manipulator (and also Lissa’s stepsister) who insists on meddling in his relationship. Complicating Evan’s world further is his very own Moriarty, Chet Parsons, a former colleague who likes to drop in and try to kill him. Authors Chester and Urno pepper this sophisticated blend of finance, technology, and mystery with heavy doses of dry wit. Evan’s narration pops: “The loss of the shirt pained me, though not as much as second-degree burns would have.” Explanations of trading data are clear and frequently excellent, as is the psychology driving the scientific mind: “I am always looking for simplifications, ways to explain two different observations with a single underlying principle.” Most remarkable is the balance achieved among the novel’s many winding plotlines. Al, Evan’s artificially intelligent best friend, helps keep him sane during quiet moments, and in a masterful twist, the villains use Evan and Lissa’s penchant for vacations in the final gambit. Whether or not you’ve read the first two Evan Olsson mysteries, his newest is an engrossing romp filled with bleeding-edge surprises.

An extremely clever thriller that dazzles on every level.

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4787-5961-4

Page Count: 246

Publisher: Outskirts Press Inc.

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.


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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Patterson's thrillers (Virgin, 1980; Black Market, 1986) have plummeted in quality since his promising debut in The Thomas Berryman Number (1976)—with this latest being the sorriest yet: a clanky and witless policer about a criminal mastermind and the cop sworn to take him down. Aside from watching sympathetic homicide dick John ("Stef") Stefanovich comeing to terms with a wheelchair-bound life—legacy of a shotgun blast to the back by drug-and-gun-running archfiend Alexandre St.-Germain—the major interest here lies in marvelling at the author's trashing of fiction convention. The whopper comes early: although St.-Germain is explicity described as being machine-gunned to death by three vigilante cops in a swank brothel (". . .a submachine gun blast nearly ripped off the head of Alexandre St.-Germain"; "The mobster's head and most of his neck had been savaged by the machine-gun volley. The body looked desecrated. . ."), before you know it this latter-day Moriarty is stepping unscathed out of an airplane. What gives? Authorial cheating, that's what—thinly glossed over with some mumbling later on about a "body double." Not that St.-Germain's ersatz death generated much suspense anyway, with subsequent action focusing on, among other items, the gory killings of assorted mob bosses by one of the vigilante cops, and Stef's viewing of pornographic tapes confiscated from that brothel. But readers generous enough to plod on will get to read about the newly Lazarus-ized St.-Germain's crass efforts to revitalize and consolidate the world's crime syndicates ("the Midnight Club"), Stef's predictable tumble for a sexy true-crime writer, and how (isn't one miracle enough for Patterson?) at book's end Stef walks again and gets to embrace a rogue cop who's murdered several people. Ironsides with a badge and a lobotomy.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 1988

ISBN: 0446676411

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1988

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