An exhilarating companion piece to the first in the series.

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THE LAST SICARIUS

Ancient languages professor Dr. Cloe Lejeune returns to stop an evil organization from locating a cave of oil jars crucial to the survival of Christianity in Mayhall’s (Judas the Apostle, 2013) latest religious thriller.

Cloe is translating parts of an old journal that may have been written by an apostle chronicling three years in the life of Christ. The documents were found in ancient oil jars, one bequeathed by her late father and the other from the Sicarii, a group protecting a cave reputedly filled with similar jars. Pope Francis enlists Cloe to find the elusive cave, since proof of the apostle’s diary might have the power to either confirm or refute the Gospels. He also hopes to find the cave before a villainous enterprise; Cloe has already dealt with its murderous leader, the Kolektor, but he’s gone, replaced by his former servant, the Karik, as well as a mysterious heir. Cloe, her military son, J.E., and Monsignor Albert Roques join Swiss Guards in tracking down the cave. The author’s novel is rife with mystery, as Cloe’s group uncovers a myriad of clues, from tunnels in the Church of St. John in France to a burial site in Tunisia, Africa. Mystery even surrounds some of the characters, particularly Miguel, who’s trailing the Karik (and by extension, Cloe and the others) for killing his family with a bomb intended for him; the reason he’s initially a target doesn’t come to light until later. Mayhall recaps his previous novel thoroughly but nonintrusively, opening with momentum (the Sicarii facing the advancing Romans in A.D. 70) and relaying the earlier plot in snippets as the story progresses. Cloe is a commendable protagonist, more than proving her worth intellectually but also handling herself physically; she shows that a high heel can be a weapon, too. While the strongest scenes involve Cloe’s making her way to the cave using the Sicarii’s cryptic signs and biblical verses, the novel has its share of action, including a plane that goes down and a standoff with gunfire and grenades. Once again, Mayhall wraps everything up quite nicely while leaving the story open for another sequel. Reading the preceding novel isn’t a requirement, though this volume will likely inspire readers to do so.

An exhilarating companion piece to the first in the series.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1491721087

Page Count: 372

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

ONE GOOD DEED

Thriller writer Baldacci (A Minute to Midnight, 2019, etc.) launches a new detective series starring World War II combat vet Aloysius Archer.

In 1949, Archer is paroled from Carderock Prison (he was innocent) and must report regularly to his parole officer, Ernestine Crabtree (she’s “damn fine-looking”). Parole terms forbid his visiting bars or loose women, which could become a problem. Trouble starts when businessman Hank Pittleman offers Archer $100 to recover a ’47 Cadillac that’s collateral for a debt owed by Lucas Tuttle, who readily agrees he owes the money. But Tuttle wants his daughter Jackie back—she’s Pittleman’s girlfriend, and she won’t return to Daddy. Archer finds the car, but it’s been torched. With no collateral to collect, he may have to return his hundred bucks. Meanwhile, Crabtree gets Archer the only job available, butchering hogs at the slaughterhouse. He’d killed plenty of men in combat, and now he needs peace. The Pittleman job doesn’t provide that peace, but at least it doesn’t involve bashing hogs’ brains in. People wind up dead and Archer becomes a suspect. So he noses around and shows that he might have the chops to be a good private investigator, a shamus. This is an era when gals have gams, guys say dang and keep extra Lucky Strikes in their hatbands, and a Lady Liberty half-dollar buys a good meal. The dialogue has a '40s noir feel: “And don’t trust nobody.…I don’t care how damn pretty they are.” There’s adult entertainment at the Cat’s Meow, cheap grub at the Checkered Past, and just enough clichés to prove that no one’s highfalutin. Readers will like Archer. He’s a talented man who enjoys detective stories, won’t keep ill-gotten gains, and respects women. All signs suggest a sequel where he hangs out a shamus shingle.

Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5387-5056-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2019

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Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

CROOKED RIVER

FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast finds evil afoot in his latest action-filled adventure (Verses for the Dead, 2018, etc.).

Imagine Florida beachcombers’ shock when they discover a shoe with a severed foot inside. Soon they see dozens more feet, all in identical shoes, bobbing toward the beach. Police and FBI ultimately count more than a hundred of them washing up on Sanibel and Captiva Islands' tranquil shores. Pendergast teams up with the junior Special Agent Armstrong Coldmoon to investigate this strange phenomenon. Oceanographers use a supercomputer to analyze Gulf currents and attempt to determine where the feet entered the ocean. Were they dumped off a ship or an island? Does each one represent a homicide? Analysts examine chemical residues and pollen, even the angle of each foot’s amputation, but the puzzle defies all explanation. Attention focuses on Cuba, where “something terrible was happening” in front of a coastal prison, and on China, the apparent source of the shoes. The clever plot is “a most baffling case indeed” for the brilliant Pendergast, but it’s the type of problem he thrives on. He’s hardly a stereotypical FBI agent, given for example his lemon-colored silk suit, his Panama hat, and his legendary insistence on working alone—until now. Pendergast rarely blinks—perhaps, someone surmises, he’s part reptile. But equally odd is Constance Greene, his “extraordinarily beautiful,” smart, and sarcastic young “ward” who has “eyes that had seen everything and, as a result, were surprised by nothing.” Coldmoon is more down to earth: part Lakota, part Italian, and “every inch a Fed.” Add in murderous drug dealers, an intrepid newspaper reporter, coyotes crossing the U.S.–Mexico border, and a pissed-off wannabe graphic novelist, and you have a thoroughly entertaining cast of characters. There is plenty of suspense, and the action gets bloody.

Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4725-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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