Ochse has hit on a new subgenre: military special ops battling supernatural enemies. Gore ensues.

AGE OF BLOOD

Ochse (Seal Team 666, 2012) offers Volume 2 chronicling the demon-hunting SEAL warrior team.

In this saga, the paranormal-pursuit SEAL team heads to Mexico to battle the usual suspects: demons, werewolves and homunculi. SEAL Team 666’s mission is to rescue Emily Withers, the kidnapped daughter of a U.S. senator. Spinning his tale in short, cinematic chapters, Ochse employs characters direct from central casting. There’s Holmes, the rugged, handsome officer in charge; Laws, wise-guy intellectual; Walker, dedicated, sometimes-conflicted sniper; Yank, an African-American from Compton, scared straight; and YaYa, Middle Eastern in heritage but patriotic to the core. There’s even a hint of romance, with Walker being paired up with an attractive covert analyst. The main event comes when Team 666 confronts the Zeta drug cartel and an ancient Aztec cult whose members dress in the skins of the dead. Ochse laces the narrative with more acronyms than he defines, lists weapons exotic and prosaic, and splashes enough blood to satisfy fans of exploding heads. The action moves from New Orleans to California and then to Mexico City, but Ochse doesn’t rely on setting. His modus operandi is demonology—and bloodletting. The prime bad guy, his motivation unclear, is white-suited Ramon, werewolf and former Zeta assassin. The original kidnapping is a trick to lure the senator to Mexico, where he too is kidnapped, the snatch pulled off by a Team 666 member infected by an otherworldly presence during a previous mission, now gone rogue at the demon’s behest. The final battle takes place in ancient excavations beneath Mexico City. The good guys knife, shoot and explode Zeta gunmen, chupacabra, giant albino snakes and 7-foot obsidian butterflies called chacmools.

Ochse has hit on a new subgenre: military special ops battling supernatural enemies. Gore ensues.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-250-03662-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2013

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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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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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