A gripping, literate page-turner.

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THE WINDOW OF TIME

Thau’s debut is a rip-roaring historical thriller set in Theodore Roosevelt’s America.

It’s the first decade of the last century. Theodore Roosevelt has just become president in the wake of William McKinley’s assassination at the hands of a disgruntled Pole, Leon Czolgosz, and Roosevelt has big plans; he wants to build the nation’s Navy, project American power abroad and re-establish the United States as a major player on the world stage. But there are those who plot his demise—anarchists who think the national interests Roosevelt promotes are little more than a pretext for exploiting the working poor. With the future of the country hanging in the balance, an unlikely pair race across the landscape, fleeing for their lives. Matthew Stanton—disguised as a priest—runs from those who would pin the last president’s death on him. And Alyssa Harding, née Coolidge, strives to escape the clutches of her sadistic husband, whom she married, it seems, only to fulfill her mother’s dying wish. As their lives collide on a Chicago-bound train, both are thrust into an unlikely struggle against anarchists, police officers, politicians and unhinged Wall Street barons. However, the greatest strength of Thau’s tale is not its fantastical excess, but its absolute plausibility. His historical fiction holds up to scrutiny, and he gives his story the look and feel of turn-of-the-century America. Similarly, his protagonists are eccentric but believable. The gorgeous Alyssa is no mere distressed damsel, and the mysterious Matthew is a clever update on that old stock figure, the man-with-a-past. Both these two, and a supporting cast of dozens, come to life with the help of Thau’s vibrant but thoroughly economical prose. He uses his words more carefully than early 20th-century stock speculators spent their money, and his novel reaps the profits.

A gripping, literate page-turner.

Pub Date: July 14, 2010

ISBN: 978-1450225908

Page Count: 301

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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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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Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

ONE GOOD DEED

Thriller writer Baldacci (A Minute to Midnight, 2019, etc.) launches a new detective series starring World War II combat vet Aloysius Archer.

In 1949, Archer is paroled from Carderock Prison (he was innocent) and must report regularly to his parole officer, Ernestine Crabtree (she’s “damn fine-looking”). Parole terms forbid his visiting bars or loose women, which could become a problem. Trouble starts when businessman Hank Pittleman offers Archer $100 to recover a ’47 Cadillac that’s collateral for a debt owed by Lucas Tuttle, who readily agrees he owes the money. But Tuttle wants his daughter Jackie back—she’s Pittleman’s girlfriend, and she won’t return to Daddy. Archer finds the car, but it’s been torched. With no collateral to collect, he may have to return his hundred bucks. Meanwhile, Crabtree gets Archer the only job available, butchering hogs at the slaughterhouse. He’d killed plenty of men in combat, and now he needs peace. The Pittleman job doesn’t provide that peace, but at least it doesn’t involve bashing hogs’ brains in. People wind up dead and Archer becomes a suspect. So he noses around and shows that he might have the chops to be a good private investigator, a shamus. This is an era when gals have gams, guys say dang and keep extra Lucky Strikes in their hatbands, and a Lady Liberty half-dollar buys a good meal. The dialogue has a '40s noir feel: “And don’t trust nobody.…I don’t care how damn pretty they are.” There’s adult entertainment at the Cat’s Meow, cheap grub at the Checkered Past, and just enough clichés to prove that no one’s highfalutin. Readers will like Archer. He’s a talented man who enjoys detective stories, won’t keep ill-gotten gains, and respects women. All signs suggest a sequel where he hangs out a shamus shingle.

Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5387-5056-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2019

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