One darned thing after another keeps the Pitts in peril and will keep readers turning the pages.

CELTIC EMPIRE

The latest Clive and Dirk Cussler thriller (Shadow Tyrants, 2018, etc.) has Dirk Pitt and company trying to stave off the annihilation of half the human race in a continent-hopping adventure.

In 1334 B.C.E., a boat carrying Princess Meritaten flees Egypt to escape a deadly plague. She carries a mysterious substance, the Apium of Faras. In 2020, young boys are dying in El Salvador, and scientists are murdered when they try to test the local water. Pitt’s heroics start early when a sabotaged dam bursts and he saves a woman from drowning. As his fans know, Pitt is with NUMA, the National Underwater and Marine Agency. Later, a tanker sinks in the Detroit River, and the president orders NUMA to investigate. A NUMA diver explores the sunken wreck alone (bad idea!) and is murdered. Meanwhile, Evanna McKee, CEO of BioRem Global, is pushing her product, “microorganisms for pollution control.” Readers will quickly suss that she’s up to no good—Pitt realizes the murders must have something to do with the water samples—but the details fill out the story with near-constant action and threats. Children, all boys, are desperately ill in a Mumbai clinic. There are so many crises, Pitt’s children must help: Dirk Junior and his twin sister, Summer, dive into the croc- and criminal-infested Nile for NUMA-supported archaeological research and immediately bump into nefarious activity. Bad guys hunt for them in a burial chamber. The twins carry on the family tradition of bravery and resourcefulness, and Pitt’s wife, Congresswoman Loren Smith-Pitt, plays a smaller but significant role. The investigation leads to Loch Ness and then to a craggy ocean outcropping. “Find Meritaten,” a dying woman pleads to Pitt. “Then save us all.” The settings are colorful, the characters appealing or despicable as needed, and the action is both implausible and fun.

One darned thing after another keeps the Pitts in peril and will keep readers turning the pages.

Pub Date: March 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1899-4

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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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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Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

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THE SILENT PATIENT

A woman accused of shooting her husband six times in the face refuses to speak.

"Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband. They had been married for seven years. They were both artists—Alicia was a painter, and Gabriel was a well-known fashion photographer." Michaelides' debut is narrated in the voice of psychotherapist Theo Faber, who applies for a job at the institution where Alicia is incarcerated because he's fascinated with her case and believes he will be able to get her to talk. The narration of the increasingly unrealistic events that follow is interwoven with excerpts from Alicia's diary. Ah, yes, the old interwoven diary trick. When you read Alicia's diary you'll conclude the woman could well have been a novelist instead of a painter because it contains page after page of detailed dialogue, scenes, and conversations quite unlike those in any journal you've ever seen. " 'What's the matter?' 'I can't talk about it on the phone, I need to see you.' 'It's just—I'm not sure I can make it up to Cambridge at the minute.' 'I'll come to you. This afternoon. Okay?' Something in Paul's voice made me agree without thinking about it. He sounded desperate. 'Okay. Are you sure you can't tell me about it now?' 'I'll see you later.' Paul hung up." Wouldn't all this appear in a diary as "Paul wouldn't tell me what was wrong"? An even more improbable entry is the one that pins the tail on the killer. While much of the book is clumsy, contrived, and silly, it is while reading passages of the diary that one may actually find oneself laughing out loud.

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30169-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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