Full of military acronyms for the savvy reader.

THE FOURTH WAR

A smash-’em-up, swift-flying Western with a John Wayne–type maverick paramilitary operator on the trail of angry Islamic terrorists in possession of nuclear warheads.

Former USAF pilot Stewart’s fourth thriller (The Third Consequence, 2000, etc.) features sharp, fearless American agent Peter Zembeic, who works for a CIA group known as the Campers and uses his smarts to fight terrorism—certain that he is on the right side. The exiled Taliban have taken refuge in Pakistan to rebuild their forces, and, all at once, a series of calamitous events transpire in and around the country, from the mysterious downing of the Pakistani president’s airplane, to the assassination of Pakistan’s prime minister, to a number of destabilizing explosions in central Islamabad, leaving the country’s 24 nuclear warheads at the mercy of terrorist seizure. Peter and his CIA contact Colonel Shane Bradley (who operates from the Shin Bet Israeli undercover detachment south of Tel Aviv) have decoded a message from their Islamic terrorist spy Donner that “Darkhorse” is coming—a reference to the Apocalypse. Peter, working out of Camp Cowboy, a CIA paramilitary base in northern Afghanistan, is secretly led to the location of the warheads by the Islamic spy Donner, who seems truly motivated by humanitarian means when he explains the ramifications of a nuclear war: “America will be wounded, but we will cease to exist.” Yet the Americans fail to gain the warheads before they fall into the hands of an al-Qaeda terrorist cell led by the Great Leader (who sounds much like bin Laden), along with his dreaded henchman, a torture artist named Angra. Colonel Bradley and his trusty female pilot, Tia, are shot down and roughed up by Angra. Peter comes to the rescue in True Grit fashion, in what proves to be a swaggering, cowboys-and-Indians adventure that occasionally becomes airborne.

Full of military acronyms for the savvy reader.

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2005

ISBN: 0-312-28646-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2005

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Fans of smart horror will sink their teeth into this one.

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THE SOUTHERN BOOK CLUB'S GUIDE TO SLAYING VAMPIRES

Things are about to get bloody for a group of Charleston housewives.

In 1988, the scariest thing in former nurse Patricia Campbell’s life is showing up to book club, since she hasn’t read the book. It’s hard to get any reading done between raising two kids, Blue and Korey, picking up after her husband, Carter, a psychiatrist, and taking care of her live-in mother-in-law, Miss Mary, who seems to have dementia. It doesn’t help that the books chosen by the Literary Guild of Mt. Pleasant are just plain boring. But when fellow book-club member Kitty gives Patricia a gloriously trashy true-crime novel, Patricia is instantly hooked, and soon she’s attending a very different kind of book club with Kitty and her friends Grace, Slick, and Maryellen. She has a full plate at home, but Patricia values her new friendships and still longs for a bit of excitement. When James Harris moves in down the street, the women are intrigued. Who is this handsome night owl, and why does Miss Mary insist that she knows him? A series of horrific events stretches Patricia’s nerves and her Southern civility to the breaking point. (A skin-crawling scene involving a horde of rats is a standout.) She just knows James is up to no good, but getting anyone to believe her is a Sisyphean feat. After all, she’s just a housewife. Hendrix juxtaposes the hypnotic mundanity of suburbia (which has a few dark underpinnings of its own) against an insidious evil that has taken root in Patricia’s insular neighborhood. It’s gratifying to see her grow from someone who apologizes for apologizing to a fiercely brave woman determined to do the right thing—hopefully with the help of her friends. Hendrix (We Sold Our Souls, 2018, etc.) cleverly sprinkles in nods to well-established vampire lore, and the fact that he’s a master at conjuring heady 1990s nostalgia is just the icing on what is his best book yet.

Fans of smart horror will sink their teeth into this one.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68369-143-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Quirk Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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Too much drama at the end detracts from a finely wrought and subtle conundrum.

THE WOMAN IN CABIN 10

Ware (In A Dark, Dark Wood, 2015) offers up a classic “paranoid woman” story with a modern twist in this tense, claustrophobic mystery.

Days before departing on a luxury cruise for work, travel journalist Lo Blacklock is the victim of a break-in. Though unharmed, she ends up locked in her own room for several hours before escaping; as a result, she is unable to sleep. By the time she comes onboard the Aurora, Lo is suffering from severe sleep deprivation and possibly even PTSD, so when she hears a big splash from the cabin next door in the middle of the night, “the kind of splash made by a body hitting water,” she can’t prove to security that anything violent has actually occurred. To make matters stranger, there's no record of any passenger traveling in the cabin next to Lo’s, even though Lo herself saw a woman there and even borrowed makeup from her before the first night’s dinner party. Reeling from her own trauma, and faced with proof that she may have been hallucinating, Lo continues to investigate, aided by her ex-boyfriend Ben (who's also writing about the cruise), fighting desperately to find any shred of evidence that she may be right. The cast of characters, their conversations, and the luxurious but confining setting all echo classic Agatha Christie; in fact, the structure of the mystery itself is an old one: a woman insists murder has occurred, everyone else says she’s crazy. But Lo is no wallflower; she is a strong and determined modern heroine who refuses to doubt the evidence of her own instincts. Despite this successful formula, and a whole lot of slowly unraveling tension, the end is somehow unsatisfying. And the newspaper and social media inserts add little depth.

Too much drama at the end detracts from a finely wrought and subtle conundrum.

Pub Date: July 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-3293-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scout Press/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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