A devilish sea saga that never runs out of cutthroat conspiracies.

THE DEVIL AND THE DARK WATER

After an outbreak of ghastly events aboard the Saardam, a merchant vessel returning from the East Indies to Amsterdam in 1634, fear spreads that an evil spirit is responsible.

Before the ship's departure, a leper issued a stark warning about the "merciless ruin" that awaited it—and then burst into flames. Only prisoner Sammy Pipps, an alleged British spy with uncanny powers of deduction, took the threat seriously. Soon enough at sea, on a vessel populated by "murderers, cutpurses and malcontents," throats are slit, bodies are stashed, and dark secrets are exposed. Ultimately, a monster storm upends the Saardam and destroys two other ships in the fleet. Amid the evil doings, human decency is largely limited to Sammy's bodyguard, Arent Hayes, a physically imposing specimen with a kind soul and a "poisoned" past, and healer Sara Wessel, abused wife of soulless Governor General Jan Haan, who happens to be Arent's uncle. With their congenial Holmes and Watson act, Sammy and Arent seem on track to emerge as the heroes of this perpetually revealing tale. But Turton, who brings a pointed social conscience to bear in his commentary on the ill treatment of women and the exploitation of the lower class, has something else in mind. With all its characters, hidden identities, and backstories, this epic sometimes sags. As one character declares, "There are too many damn secrets on this ship, and I swear all of them are marching toward him with swords in their hands." But Turton, whose brain-twisting first novel, The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle (2018), posed knotty challenges for readers, has a colorful tale to tell and does so in highly entertaining fashion.

A devilish sea saga that never runs out of cutthroat conspiracies.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-72820-602-8

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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On one level, it’s great entertainment; on another, a window into a sobering possibility.

NEVER

A complex, scary thriller that feels too plausible for comfort.

Republican President Pauline Green is trying to steer the United States through a dangerous world. China spends billions in Africa to extend its global influence, while North African countries like Chad are beset by criminals and terrorists. But that’s secondary to the real problem: Rebels in North Korea try to overthrow the Communist dynasty and reunite the North and South, which scares the bejesus out of China. They fear the peninsula’s reunification, “a euphemism for takeover by the capitalist West.” The Chinese believe America and Europe want to destroy China “and would stop at nothing," so the last thing they need is a bordering nation with West-leaning sympathies. And domestically, Green faces “blowhard” wannabe president Sen. James Moore, who thinks there’s no point in having nukes if you won’t use them. Even her personal life is complicated: Her husband “was a good lover, but she had never wanted to tear his clothes off with her teeth.” In fact, the first spouses are quietly drifting apart. Yet she “could not fall in love” with another man. “It would be a hurricane, a train crash, a nuclear bomb.” Speaking of which, both superpowers have ironclad commitments to protect their allies, even if some crazy third parties get their hands on nuclear weapons. Will China and the U.S. be drawn into all-out war neither wants? This novel deals with the same great-power issues as Elliot Ackerman and James Stavridis’ recent 2034, and both will give you the willies. Follett could have cut back on the North African subplot and delivered a tighter yarn, but then you mightn’t have learned that “a helicopter glides like a grand piano.” Anyway, that’s Follett: You’ll be so absorbed in the story threads that you’ll follow them anywhere—and you’ll suddenly realize you’ve read hundreds of pages.

On one level, it’s great entertainment; on another, a window into a sobering possibility.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-59-330001-5

Page Count: 816

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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Another adventure-packed treat for fans of the Ryan family.

TOM CLANCY CHAIN OF COMMAND

A kidnapping prompts President Jack Ryan to temporarily step aside.

Criminals force “some poor schmuck” to fly his Cessna toward the White House and the Capitol, and a pair of F-16s prepare to shoot him down. So begins a convoluted plot to stop President Ryan from pushing through a Pharma Independence bill vehemently opposed by Indian foreign minister Varma. (Varma vs. Pharma—hmm.) Anyway, the bad guys kidnap first lady Cathy Ryan, and what’s a Clancy thriller without fighting and skulduggery in far-flung reaches of the world, with do-good American doctors who stand to be executed as no-good spies in a part of Afghanistan so remote that even the Taliban doesn’t go there? As fans will remember, Cathy, a world-class ophthalmic surgeon, is the love of the president’s life. Knowing his own deep emotional involvement, he sees the need to temporarily cede constitutional power to the newly minted Vice President Dehart. (VP Hargrave has suddenly died.) Yes, the first lady might not survive—wherever she is—but the president must put country above all else. The plot even includes a possibly rogue Chinese cross-border incursion onto the Roof of the World, a testy top-level chat with China’s president, and an encounter with the Argentine border patrol. And with Aussies and Brits who’ve fought in Africa and who may kill Cathy, the story is like No Continent Left Behind. So yeah, the plot sort of holds together, but wouldn’t stopping the drug bill have been lots easier using the tried-and-true method of buying off a few U.S. senators? As a White House official muses, there’s “no easy explanation for human stupidity—or violence.” In other words, this is vintage Clancy, may he rest in peace, with plenty of fast-paced excitement in locales galore.

Another adventure-packed treat for fans of the Ryan family.

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-18816-3

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021

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