Nothing beats a cinder-block–sized adventure novel on a winter weekend.

EMPIRE AND HONOR

The seventh in Griffin’s (Victory and Honor, 2011, etc.) Honor Bound series offers more of USMC Maj. Cletus Frade’s escapades.

Here, Griffin’s all-stuff-military-and–intrigue battleground is Argentina. The time is immediately post–World War II, with Juan Perón and Evita double-dealing and Nazis on the side. The good-guy movers and shakers believe the USSR is the next enemy, and remnants of the disbanded OSS (soon to be CIA) want to hide the high command of Abwehr Ost, the Wehrmacht’s anti-communist intelligence group, in Argentina far away from the Soviets. The U.S. rocket program needed von Braun; the spooks needed Abwehr OstArgentina is the chosen hideaway, which is complicated by the fact that Argentina is also the lair of Operation Phoenix, a plan by Nazi SS-types dead set on reincarnating fascism. Frade’s late biological father was a rich Argentine colonel, and so Frade’s unofficially charged with rooting out bad Germans and securing good Germans. This book maintains Griffin’s standard narrative trick of employing heroes with stupendous wealth, airplanes and secure hideaways readily available. Frade also happens to be Perón’s godson, but Frade dislikes Tio Juanwhich muddies dealings with the Argentine government, mainly Gen. Bernardo Martín, chief of the Bureau of Internal Security. Some Argentines want to assassinate Perón, but many don’t, in spite of Perón being corrupt and overly ambitious, since Perón’s death might spark a civil war. The primary narrative thread involves locating U-234, a submarine that ferried scheming SS-types intent on persevering with fascism’s failures. U-234 also hauled a half-ton of uranium oxide the SS bad guys want to sell to the USSR to finance Operation Phoenix. Although heavily reliant on exposition, the book provides sufficient back story and works as a stand-alone read.  

Nothing beats a cinder-block–sized adventure novel on a winter weekend.

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-399-16066-0

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

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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Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless...

SPLIT SECOND

Two defrocked Secret Service Agents investigate the assassination of one presidential candidate and the kidnapping of another.

Baldacci (The Christmas Train, 2002, etc.) sets out with two plot strands. The first begins when something distracts Secret Service Agent Sean King and during that “split second,” presidential candidate Clyde Ritter is shot dead. King takes out the killer, but that’s not enough to save his reputation with the Secret Service. He retires and goes on to do often tedious but nonetheless always lucrative work (much like a legal thriller such as this) at a law practice. Plot two begins eight years later when another Secret Service Agent, Michelle Maxwell, lets presidential candidate John Bruno out of her sight for a few minutes at a wake for one of his close associates. He goes missing. Now Maxwell, too, gets in dutch with the SS. Though separated by time, the cases are similar and leave several questions unanswered. What distracted King at the rally? Bruno had claimed his friend’s widow called him to the funeral home. The widow (one of the few characters here to have any life) says she never called Bruno. Who set him up? Who did a chambermaid at Ritter’s hotel blackmail? And who is the man in the Buick shadowing King’s and Maxwell’s every move? King is a handsome, rich divorce, Maxwell an attractive marathon runner. Will they join forces and find each other kind of, well, appealing? But of course. The two former agents traverse the countryside, spinning endless hypotheses before the onset, at last, of a jerrybuilt conclusion that begs credibility and offers few surprises.

Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless concoction.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2003

ISBN: 0-446-53089-1

Page Count: 406

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2003

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