Written by the numbers, but undemanding entertainment.

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THE PRESIDENT'S DAUGHTER

A bare-chested hero of a one-time president takes on a slew of very bad jihadis, and the bullets fly.

In office, Clinton lobbed a few cruise missiles at Osama bin Laden and company, to little apparent effect. Now, teamed up with literary industrialist Patterson, his vengeance is more comprehensive. Matt Keating helms the Oval Office. A former Navy SEAL, he has a special bone to pick with Asim Al-Asheed, a sadistic one-time doctor who once crucified a captive SEAL, leaving him to hang for an hour “before the captors grew bored and slit his throat.” Not nice. Holed up in the Libyan mountains, Asim has an eager enabler in a Chinese operative named Jiang Lijun. SEALs close in, bullets are exchanged, a bomb detonates, and Asim’s family members become collateral damage. What’s a bad guy to do? Kidnap Keating’s teenage daughter, of course, but only after Keating is out of office, “a one-term president known to history as the first to lose my job against an insurgent vice president,” Pamela Barnes, who'd never liked him and defeated him in the primaries. As president, Barnes proves less interested in Mel's safety than in politics, so it’s up to Keating to work the phones with Mossad, Saudi intelligence, and the Massachusetts State Police and assemble a crew to find Asim and “separate his brain stem from his spine.” It helps that Melanie, the daughter, knows her way around tactical weapons of various kinds. She’s a tough, resourceful kid, which only serves to tick Asim off even as Jiang woos him with geopolitical calculations and fat bribes. As for Keating, well, he’s the kind of dude given to lines like, “Except for Mel, there are no innocents up there. Armed or unarmed, running away or running toward us, kill ’em all.” Guess how it all ends? There’s scarcely a moment here that can’t be seen from afar: The bad guys sneer and stab, the good guys come riding in to save the day, the sitting president fumes at having been left out of the fun, and the authors throw in genre tropes like so many grenades.

Written by the numbers, but undemanding entertainment.

Pub Date: June 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-54071-1

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Little, Brown and Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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Hits the marks for spooky thrills and mysterious chills.

BOOK OF NIGHT

A former thief who specialized in stealing magical documents is forced back into her old habits in Black's adult debut.

Charlie Hall used to work as a thief, stealing for and from magicians—or rather, “gloamists.” In this world, gloamists are people with magical shadows that are alive, gaining strength from the gloamists' own blood. A gloamist can learn to manipulate the magic of their shadow, doing everything from changing how it looks to using it to steal, possess a person, or even murder. Gloamists hire nonmagical people like Charlie to steal precious and rare magical documents written by their kind throughout history and detailing their research and experiments in shadow magic. Gloamists can use onyx to keep each other from sending shadows to steal these treasures, but onyx won't stop regular humans from old-fashioned breaking and entering. After Charlie’s talent for crime gets her into too much trouble, she swears off her old career and tries to settle down with her sensible boyfriend, Vince—but when she finds a dead man in an alley and notices that even his shadow has been ripped to pieces, she can’t help trying to figure out who he was and why he met such a gruesome end. Before she knows it, Charlie is forced back into a life of lies and danger, using her skills as a thief to find a book that could unleash the full and terrifying power of the shadow world. Black is a veteran fantasy writer, which shows in the opening pages as she neatly and easily guides the reader through the engrossing world of gloamists, magical shadows, and Charlie’s brand of criminality. There's a lot of flipping back and forth between the past and the present, and though both timelines are well plotted and suspenseful, the story leans a touch too hard on the flashbacks. Still, the mystery elements are well executed, as is Charlie’s characterization, and the big twist at the end packs a satisfying punch.

Hits the marks for spooky thrills and mysterious chills.

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-81219-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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Well-done crime fiction. Baldacci nails the noir.

DREAM TOWN

An old-fashioned gumshoe yarn about Hollywood dreams and dead bodies.

Private investigator Aloysius Archer celebrates New Year’s Eve 1952 in LA with his gorgeous lady friend and aspiring actress Liberty Callahan. Screenwriter Eleanor Lamb shows up and offers to hire him because “someone might be trying to kill me.” “I’m fifty a day plus expenses,” he replies, but money’s no obstacle. Later, he sneaks into Lamb’s house and stumbles upon a body, then gets knocked out by an unseen assailant. Archer takes plenty of physical abuse in the story, but at least he doesn’t get a bullet between the eyes like the guy he trips over. A 30-year-old World War II combat veteran, Archer is a righteous and brave hero. Luck and grit keep him alive in both Vegas and the City of Angels, which is rife with gangsters and crooked cops. Not rich at all, his one luxury is the blood-red 1939 Delahaye he likes to drive with the top down. He’d bought it with his gambling winnings in Reno, and only a bullet hole in the windscreen post mars its perfection. Liberty loves Archer, but will she put up with the daily danger of losing him? Why doesn’t he get a safe job, maybe playing one of LA’s finest on the hit TV show Dragnet? Instead, he’s a tough and principled idealist who wants to make the world a better place. Either that or he’s simply a “pavement-pounding PI on a slow dance to maybe nowhere.” And if some goon doesn’t do him in sooner, his Lucky Strikes will probably do him in later. Baldacci paints a vivid picture of the not-so-distant era when everybody smoked, Joe McCarthy hunted commies, and Marilyn Monroe stirred men’s loins. The 1950s weren’t the fabled good old days, but they’re fodder for gritty crime stories of high ideals and lowlifes, of longing and disappointment, and all the trouble a PI can handle.

Well-done crime fiction. Baldacci nails the noir.

Pub Date: April 19, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5387-1977-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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