Steadily absorbing revelations of all manner of malfeasance, beautifully handled, even if the final twist is less than the...

BLOODY GENIUS

Virgil Flowers’ 12th appearance takes him into the homicidal heart of the University of Minnesota.

When a professor’s as brainy and wealthy as Barthelemy Quill, a nerve specialist who drives a BMW, you have to make some allowances for him. That’s presumably why his unnamed female companion agrees to let him sneak her into his personal carrel at midnight, hours after the university library has closed. But neither of them is prepared to find the dark carrel already occupied by another anonymous figure who, far from making allowances, reacts to Quill’s sputtering outrage by bashing him to death with his state-of-the-art laptop and running off with the murder weapon. Pressed by Quill’s equally rich sister to get faster results than Sgt. Margaret Trane of the Minneapolis PD has come up with, the governor gets the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to send Virgil (Holy Ghost, 2018, etc.) to help out. Trane doesn’t want his help, but she’s won over by his determination to avoid taking the credit for any new leads and his success in finding a lead almost immediately: a hair on the yoga mat in Quill’s carrel that didn’t come from anybody’s head. Spurred on by the discovery, Trane comes up with a lead of her own: a hidden recording in which three men, one of them probably Quill, discuss a highly questionable medical procedure. Now, instead of too few leads, there are too many. Was Quill murdered by Ruth McDonald, whose quadriplegic husband killed himself after just such a procedure? By Quill’s own estranged third wife, in search of a bigger payoff than her prenup allowed? By professor Katherine Green, whose Cultural Science approach to medications he’d claimed had given fuel to rabid anti-vaxxers? By Boyd Nash, a sociopathic patent troll who’s made a specialty of taking credit for other people’s discoveries and accepting payoffs to go away quietly? Or by another suspect for still another reason Virgil and Trane can’t yet imagine?

Steadily absorbing revelations of all manner of malfeasance, beautifully handled, even if the final twist is less than the best.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-53661-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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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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