ROBERT LUDLUM'S THE ARES DECISION

Diabolical Caleb Bahame, “brutal terrorist and cult leader,” has unleashed hell in Uganda, and there are rumors Bahame is seeking an unholy alliance.


The CIA knows something spooky is happening, perhaps involving Iran’s rogue government. Into Uganda goes a special-ops team. Out comes one man alive. President Sam Adams Castilla understands the intelligence bureaucracy usually generates assessments suiting its own agenda. Castilla calls on Covert-One, a blacker-than-black operations group overseen by his longtime friend and trusted confidante, Fred Klein. Klein has a man he trusts too, Col. Jon Smith, an army microbiologist and veteran of several hazardous Covert-One missions. The video of the Uganda fight that wiped out the special ops team shows unarmed men, women and children running into gunfire and killing the armed men barehanded. There’s speculation Bahame is fueling his followers with narcotics and witchcraft, but Smith’s research soon says otherwise. The action moves from Washington to California, where Smith drafts ex-SAS commando Peter Howell for a clandestine foray to Uganda. Enroute, the pair stop in South Africa to meet Dr. Sarie van Keuren, world-renowned parasite expert. She decides to tag along. Meanwhile the Ayatollah Khamenei lurks in Tehran, half-believing that his trusted underling Mehrak Omidi has discovered a practicable biological weapon in the hands of the infidel Baheme. After firefights, diversions and an unlucky cave exploration, Smith and company end up captured and imprisoned at Baheme’s camp. There Omidi is present for a demonstration of the bio-weapon. Characters are formulaic and Covert-One familiar. Action moves through brief, dialogue-heavy chapters and unravels a serviceable plot, right down to Sarie’s capture and transport to an underground Iranian bio-weapons facility. There Omidi attempts to coerce her into weaponizing a thing best left untouched until Smith, Howell and an Iranian rebel force battle their way to the lab and beyond. 

Nothing fancy here, but plenty of comfort food for those with an appetite for the thriller genre.

 

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-446-69908-2

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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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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King fans won’t be disappointed, though most will likely prefer the scarier likes of The Shining and It.

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THE INSTITUTE

The master of modern horror returns with a loose-knit parapsychological thriller that touches on territory previously explored in Firestarter and Carrie.

Tim Jamieson is a man emphatically not in a hurry. As King’s (The Outsider, 2018, etc.) latest opens, he’s bargaining with a flight attendant to sell his seat on an overbooked run from Tampa to New York. His pockets full, he sticks out his thumb and winds up in the backwater South Carolina town of DuPray (should we hear echoes of “pray”? Or “depraved”?). Turns out he’s a decorated cop, good at his job and at reading others (“You ought to go see Doc Roper,” he tells a local. “There are pills that will brighten your attitude”). Shift the scene to Minneapolis, where young Luke Ellis, precociously brilliant, has been kidnapped by a crack extraction team, his parents brutally murdered so that it looks as if he did it. Luke is spirited off to Maine—this is King, so it’s got to be Maine—and a secret shadow-government lab where similarly conscripted paranormally blessed kids, psychokinetic and telepathic, are made to endure the Skinnerian pain-and-reward methods of the evil Mrs. Sigsby. How to bring the stories of Tim and Luke together? King has never minded detours into the unlikely, but for this one, disbelief must be extra-willingly suspended. In the end, their forces joined, the two and their redneck allies battle the sophisticated secret agents of The Institute in a bloodbath of flying bullets and beams of mental energy (“You’re in the south now, Annie had told these gunned-up interlopers. She had an idea they were about to find out just how true that was"). It’s not King at his best, but he plays on current themes of conspiracy theory, child abuse, the occult, and Deep State malevolence while getting in digs at the current occupant of the White House, to say nothing of shadowy evil masterminds with lisps.

King fans won’t be disappointed, though most will likely prefer the scarier likes of The Shining and It.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-9821-1056-7

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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