Atir appreciates subtle spycraft and knows his business, but this tale is often morose and features a woman who can be less...

THE ENGLISH TEACHER

An ex-Mossad agent sets off a scramble at the agency when she disappears.

Rachel’s father has died and she’s traveled to London to settle his estate, but her thoughts are filled with melancholy for the relationship the two failed to cement before she left home. When she finds a box of letters from her former handler, Ehud, in which he explains to her father that Rachel is working for Mossad—a detail she was forbidden to share with him herself—she decides she's had enough and vanishes—but only after calling Ehud and leaving him with a cryptic message: "My father died....He died for the second time." Her disappearance sets off alarms in Israeli intelligence circles: although Rachel has been retired for some time, what she knows about Mossad’s operations and key intelligence she developed could be ruinous. They need to find her and find her fast. Ehud and Joe, another retired agent, begin the search for the woman who is wanted “dead or alive,” and, as they continue, Ehud, long in love with Rachel, tells Joe her story. The point of view switches back and forth between Rachel as she pursues her missions and Ehud, who narrates Rachel’s story until this point. While the details of a covert operative’s life and methods are certainly fascinating, Atir’s style is not. Ehud and Rachel share the same voice, rendering the narrative strangely monotonous. It’s not a bad voice, but it never varies, even when the stakes change from forbidden love to a risky maneuver involving biological weapons. Ultimately, Rachel’s life comes across as sad, and she’s painted as capable but damaged. Readers will have to work hard to care about her since there’s little to justify Ehud’s undying love.

Atir appreciates subtle spycraft and knows his business, but this tale is often morose and features a woman who can be less likable than the people she seeks to best in her subterfuge.

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-14-312918-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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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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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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