Unsettling and memorable, weird flaws and all.

ZERO HISTORY

Gibson's third thriller-ish novel set in the present day (Spook Country, 2007, etc.)—like its predecessors, post-modern, post-structural, almost post-speculative.

A comfortable narrative familiarity deriving from the recurring characters (most of them appeared in one or both of the previous books) and motifs—Russian gangsters, pattern recognition, motorcycle couriers, the virtual certainty that somebody, somewhere, is listening—eases us into the action, which occurs, metaphorically at least, in London and Paris, aspects of GibsonWorld with slightly different accents. Shadowy mogul Hubertus Bigend provides the motivation for everything that ensues, through his constant need to live on the edge; if no edge is available, he'll manufacture one. He rehires Hollis Henry, a former vocalist for a famous rock band now down on her luck, to investigate a line of superbly made clothing, Gabriel Hounds, a brand whose method of achieving exclusivity involves rendering itself virtually nonexistent: It has no outlets, no factory, no offices, no sales force. Bigend also hopes to procure a recession-proof contract to design military apparel. Previously he dispatched drug-addicted translator Milgrim to an expensive Swiss clinic to be straightened out, merely to see if it was possible. To test Milgrim's newfound mental architecture, Bigend now sends him to investigate a new line of military-style clothing, unaware that he's stirring up a well-connected and touchy arms dealer about whom U.S. intelligence also is curious. Hollis's ex-boyfriend, daredevil Garreth, who jumped off the tallest building in the world only to get run over by a Lotus, enters the mix. Gibson's plotting or characters rarely compel—the (mostly offstage) spooks and thugs—and the off-kilter romances seem amateurish, even clownish. What matters are the highly textured, brilliantly evocative prose and the stunning insights Gibson offers into what we perceive as the present moment—the implication being, per the title, that's all we have left.

Unsettling and memorable, weird flaws and all.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-399-15682-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2010

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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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The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once...

DELIVER US FROM EVIL

In Baldacci’s 19th (True Blue, 2009, etc.), boy and girl monster-hunters meet cute.

Evan Waller, aka Fadir Kuchin, aka “the Butcher of Kiev,” aka “the Ukrainian psychopath,” is one of those deep-dyed villains a certain kind of fiction can’t do without. Serving with distinction as part of the Soviet Union’s KGB, he joyfully and indiscriminately killed thousands. Now, many years later, posing as a successful businessman, he’s vacationing in Provence where, unbeknownst to him, two separate clandestine operations are being mounted by people who do not regard him with favor. Reggie Campion—28 and gorgeous—spearheads the first, an ad hoc group of monster-hunting vigilantes. Studly, tall Shaw (no first name supplied) is point guard for a rival team, shadowy enough to leave the matter of its origin ambiguous. While their respective teams reconnoiter and jockey for position, studly boy meets gorgeous girl. Monster-hunters are famous for having trust issues, but clearly these are drawn to each other in the time-honored Hollywood fashion. Shaw saves Reggie’s life. She returns the favor. The attraction deepens and heats up to the point where team-members on both sides grow unsettled by the loss of focus, singularly inopportune since, as monsters go, Waller rises to the second coming of Caligula—ample testimony furnished by a six-page, unsparingly detailed torture scene. In the end, the stalkers strike, bullets fly, screams curdle the blood, love has its innings and a monster does what a monster’s got to do.

The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once again show the stuff it’s made of.

Pub Date: April 20, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-446-56408-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Avon A/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2010

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