Robie and Reel fans will thrill to see their favorite spies back in action, no matter what the setting.

THE TARGET

Baldacci picks up where he left off with CIA assassins Will Robie and Jessica Reel in this no-holds-barred tale of perfidy and murder at the highest level.

The president, the director of the CIA and the president’s national security adviser meet in secret to hatch a plot to kill the dangerous and unpredictable leader of North Korea. Evan Tucker, the slimy CIA head, decides to use Robie and Reel, whose last mission ended in the deaths of other agency personnel. But first he sends them to the Burner Box, a training facility in rural North Carolina, where they’re subjected to everything from near-fatal waterboarding to food and sleep deprivation. When a North Korean operative discovers the mission and blows it out of the water, Robie and Reel are sent to clean up the mess. Meanwhile, Julie, a young girl they know from a previous mission that’s never fully explained here, is captured by a group of Nazi sympathizers intent on getting to Reel. Baldacci’s prose crackles with urgency, and both spies, although psychological messes, are at the tops of their games. But this novel’s construction proves both puzzling and distracting: Baldacci spins a compelling, although much of the time improbable, tale revolving around the failed strike at North Korea, taking up about a third of the book. The second third veers into Reel’s neo-Nazi past and takes the story so far afield that they seem like different novels. The final third returns to the Korean storyline, with the results being oddly fragmented. Some scenes set in a Korean concentration camp prove the most compelling by far, especially with their heartbreaking descriptions of lives that are almost too terrible to contemplate.

Robie and Reel fans will thrill to see their favorite spies back in action, no matter what the setting.

Pub Date: April 22, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4555-2123-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how...

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THE A LIST

A convicted killer’s list of five people he wants dead runs the gamut from the wife he’s already had murdered to franchise heroine Ali Reynolds.

Back in the day, women came from all over to consult Santa Clarita fertility specialist Dr. Edward Gilchrist. Many of them left his care happily pregnant, never dreaming that the father of the babies they carried was none other than the physician himself, who donated his own sperm rather than that of the handsome, athletic, disease-free men pictured in his scrapbook. When Alexandra Munsey’s son, Evan, is laid low by the kidney disease he’s inherited from his biological father and she returns to Gilchrist in search of the donor’s medical records, the roof begins to fall in on him. By the time it’s done falling, he’s serving a life sentence in Folsom Prison for commissioning the death of his wife, Dawn, the former nurse and sometime egg donor who’d turned on him. With nothing left to lose, Gilchrist tattoos himself with the initials of five people he blames for his fall: Dawn; Leo Manuel Aurelio, the hit man he’d hired to dispose of her; Kaitlyn Todd, the nurse/receptionist who took Dawn’s place; Alex Munsey, whose search for records upset his apple cart; and Ali Reynolds, the TV reporter who’d helped put Alex in touch with the dozen other women who formed the Progeny Project because their children looked just like hers. No matter that Ali’s been out of both California and the news business for years; Gilchrist and his enablers know that revenge can’t possibly be served too cold. Wonder how far down that list they’ll get before Ali, aided once more by Frigg, the methodical but loose-cannon AI first introduced in Duel to the Death (2018), turns on them?

Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how little the boundary-challenged AI, who gets into the case more or less inadvertently, differs from your standard human sidekick with issues.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5101-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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The loose ends that make this the least satisfactory of Joe’s three cases to date still don’t inhibit Box’s gift for nonstop...

WINTERKILL

The latest in an award-winning series set in the Bighorn Mountains (Savage Run, 2002, etc.).

Minutes after Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett arrests Lamar Gardiner, District Supervisor for the Twelve Sleep National Forest, for firing into a herd of elk, killing seven animals and blindly continuing to reload with cigarettes after he runs out of shells, Gardiner manages to handcuff Joe to his steering wheel and bolt off into a winter storm, only to turn up pinned to a tree with a pair of arrows, his throat cut. And things get even messier from that point on. The attack on a federal agent, together with reports that the Nation of the Rocky Mountain Sovereign Citizens has established an encampment in Twelve Sleep, brings gung-ho US Forest Service investigator Melinda Strickland and FBI sharpshooter Dick Munker, a veteran of Waco and Ruby Ridge, to town. Strickland maintains that she’s just trying to get justice for a murdered official, but she seems awfully eager to tie the perp to the Sovereigns. By the time Joe arrests one of Gardiner’s disappointing killers and identifies the other, Strickland and Munker are already planning an all-out attack on the encampment. The prospect is a personal nightmare for Joe, since Jeannie Keeley, the drifter whose abandoned daughter April Joe and his wife have been trying to adopt, has reclaimed April and spirited her off to the dubious shelter of the Sovereigns.

The loose ends that make this the least satisfactory of Joe’s three cases to date still don’t inhibit Box’s gift for nonstop action and his ability to see every side of the most divisive issues in the West.

Pub Date: May 12, 2003

ISBN: 0-399-15045-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2003

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