A stylish story in which investigators aren’t afraid to get in too deep.

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GOLDEN CORD OF ARRAM

From the Golden Cord Trilogy series , Vol. 1

An experienced detective takes on an enigmatic shadow organization in Runkis’ (Three Proofs That God Exists, 2019) dystopian thriller.

In 2056, legendary investigator Willy J. Morro is brought out of retirement at the request of a U.S. senator. She needs the 91-year-old criminologist to help track down the Yuendi, a mysterious criminal organization that’s recently killed several operatives by somehow vaporizing them. The Yuendi—aka the Brotherhood of Chaos—has also been responsible for a string of unusual terrorist acts, such as jamming transportation computers to cause massive traffic jams; as Yuendi expert Ward Baxter thinks, “No one knew how many there were, where they came from, when they got started, or, more importantly, what on God’s green earth they were trying to accomplish—apart from mayhem and mass destruction for destruction’s sake.” Forty-eight-year-old Special Agent Bill Macalister from the U.S. Department of Justice has been assigned to play the sidekick to Morro’s grizzled veteran. Unbeknown to the former, Morro has reason to suspect that the Yuendi may have something to do with UFOs—and a government conspiracy to cover up their existence.  The two investigators, plus Baxter and microbiology researcher Mary Jamison, must get to the bottom of the mystery, which involves a possibly mythical object called the Golden Cord of Arram. Runkis’ prose is curt and moody, which is in keeping with the author’s self-aware riff on detective fiction: “It was a large eucalyptus that was now badly charred and broken. Before the blast…it must have stood twenty meters high. It now terminated about three meters above the ground, all charred and splintered.” Morro, in particular, is a welcome addition to the stable of smug-but-capable investigative geniuses—in part due to his advanced age, and his oft-stated desire to celebrate his 150th birthday. Despite the novel’s familiar genre trappings, it’s rather ambitious in its themes, and as the plot ramps up, it goes in unexpected directions. Although the tale goes to some unnecessarily dark places, its mix of conspiracy and crime fiction makes for a generally entertaining and occasionally thought-provoking escape.

A stylish story in which investigators aren’t afraid to get in too deep.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5439-9248-9

Page Count: 234

Publisher: BookBaby

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

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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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Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how...

THE A LIST

A convicted killer’s list of five people he wants dead runs the gamut from the wife he’s already had murdered to franchise heroine Ali Reynolds.

Back in the day, women came from all over to consult Santa Clarita fertility specialist Dr. Edward Gilchrist. Many of them left his care happily pregnant, never dreaming that the father of the babies they carried was none other than the physician himself, who donated his own sperm rather than that of the handsome, athletic, disease-free men pictured in his scrapbook. When Alexandra Munsey’s son, Evan, is laid low by the kidney disease he’s inherited from his biological father and she returns to Gilchrist in search of the donor’s medical records, the roof begins to fall in on him. By the time it’s done falling, he’s serving a life sentence in Folsom Prison for commissioning the death of his wife, Dawn, the former nurse and sometime egg donor who’d turned on him. With nothing left to lose, Gilchrist tattoos himself with the initials of five people he blames for his fall: Dawn; Leo Manuel Aurelio, the hit man he’d hired to dispose of her; Kaitlyn Todd, the nurse/receptionist who took Dawn’s place; Alex Munsey, whose search for records upset his apple cart; and Ali Reynolds, the TV reporter who’d helped put Alex in touch with the dozen other women who formed the Progeny Project because their children looked just like hers. No matter that Ali’s been out of both California and the news business for years; Gilchrist and his enablers know that revenge can’t possibly be served too cold. Wonder how far down that list they’ll get before Ali, aided once more by Frigg, the methodical but loose-cannon AI first introduced in Duel to the Death (2018), turns on them?

Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how little the boundary-challenged AI, who gets into the case more or less inadvertently, differs from your standard human sidekick with issues.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5101-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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