A competent, if unambitious, political thriller.

STATE OF THE UNION

GROUND ZERO

An FBI agent is forced to go underground after discovering a plot to blow up Washington, D.C., in Branam’s latest entry in his Wolfe Adventure series.

Thomas Wolfe is the assistant director of the FBI’s Critical Incident Response Group, and he has knowledge of a terrorist plot. A cabal of billionaires called the Order is planning to stage a coup, the first stage of which involves detonating a nuclear bomb during the president’s State of the Union address. For some reason, Tom’s commanders have ordered him to back off the investigation, and when he presents his findings to the upper echelons of the government intelligence hierarchy, he’s met with ridicule. They suspend him from the bureau, and soon, federal marshals try to arrest him “for suspicion of murder, espionage, acts of terrorism, and sedition.”He avoids being taken into custody, but now he’s a high-profile fugitive pursued by all the powers of the government: “The Order has created a shadow state,” his former boss warns him, “by systematically placing people in key positions throughout the government—some in very high positions.” To prevent the impending attack, Tom needs to find and free his brother, John Wolfe, a master spy who’s being held at a blackout facility for his own attempts to bring down the Order. That will be no easy feat, especially with a Navy SEAL–turned-assassin hot on his trail. Branam’s novel is fast-paced and action-packed from the first scene. However, nearly every element—the descriptions, the characters, the explanations—rises merely to the level of functional and not one inch higher. This simplicity sometimes leads to rather cartoonish moments, as when U.S. Sen. Fetterson, the Order’s leader, lovingly caresses the nuclear bomb’s control box and thinks, “Soon I will be president for life!” There are numerous allusions to previous books in the Wolfe series, but readers will be able to make their way through this one fine without having read the others. Those who enjoy escapist fare, centered on a James Bond–style villain blowing up a city with a nuke, will largely find themselves content with this latest offering.

A competent, if unambitious, political thriller.

Pub Date: Dec. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4582-2261-9

Page Count: 380

Publisher: AbbottPress

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2020

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Grisham fans will be pleased, graphic details of evil behavior and all.

A TIME FOR MERCY

A small-town Mississippi courtroom becomes the setting for a trademark Grisham legal tussle.

Stuart Kofer is not a nice guy. He drinks way too much and likes to brawl. One night, coming home in a foul mood with a blood alcohol count more than triple the legal limit, he breaks his live-in girlfriend’s jaw. He’s done terrible things to her children, too—and now her 16-year-old boy, Drew, puts an end to the terror. Unfortunately for the kid in a place where uniforms are worshipped, Stu was a well-liked cop. “Did it really matter if he was sixteen or sixty? It certainly didn’t matter to Stu Kofer, whose stock seemed to rise by the hour,” writes Grisham of local opinion about giving Drew the benefit of the doubt. Jake Brigance, the hero of the tale, is a lawyer who’s down to his last dime until a fat wrongful-death case is settled. It doesn’t help his bank book when the meaningfully named Judge Omar Noose orders him to defend the kid. Backed by a brilliant paralegal whose dream is to be the first Black female lawyer in the county, he prepares for what the local sheriff correctly portends will be “an ugly trial” that may well land Drew on death row. As ever, Grisham capably covers the mores of his native turf, from gun racks to the casual use of the N-word. As well, he examines Bible Belt attitudes toward abortion and capital punishment as well as the inner workings of the courtroom, such as jury selection: “What will your jury look like?” asks a trial consultant, to which Jake replies, “A regular posse. It’s rural north Mississippi, and I’ll try to change venue to another county simply because of the notoriety.” The story runs on a touch long, as Grisham yarns tend to do, and it gets a bit gory at times, but the level of tension is satisfyingly high all the way to the oddly inconclusive end.

Grisham fans will be pleased, graphic details of evil behavior and all.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-385-54596-9

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

THE SILENT PATIENT

A woman accused of shooting her husband six times in the face refuses to speak.

"Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband. They had been married for seven years. They were both artists—Alicia was a painter, and Gabriel was a well-known fashion photographer." Michaelides' debut is narrated in the voice of psychotherapist Theo Faber, who applies for a job at the institution where Alicia is incarcerated because he's fascinated with her case and believes he will be able to get her to talk. The narration of the increasingly unrealistic events that follow is interwoven with excerpts from Alicia's diary. Ah, yes, the old interwoven diary trick. When you read Alicia's diary you'll conclude the woman could well have been a novelist instead of a painter because it contains page after page of detailed dialogue, scenes, and conversations quite unlike those in any journal you've ever seen. " 'What's the matter?' 'I can't talk about it on the phone, I need to see you.' 'It's just—I'm not sure I can make it up to Cambridge at the minute.' 'I'll come to you. This afternoon. Okay?' Something in Paul's voice made me agree without thinking about it. He sounded desperate. 'Okay. Are you sure you can't tell me about it now?' 'I'll see you later.' Paul hung up." Wouldn't all this appear in a diary as "Paul wouldn't tell me what was wrong"? An even more improbable entry is the one that pins the tail on the killer. While much of the book is clumsy, contrived, and silly, it is while reading passages of the diary that one may actually find oneself laughing out loud.

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30169-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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