Mills offers an interesting new premise for action-adventure, albeit with the resolution one tick less than satisfying.

ROBERT LUDLUM'S THE UTOPIA EXPERIMENT

In the latest of Covert-One operative Lt. Col. Jon Smith’s adventures, Mills (The Ares Decision, 2011, etc.) uploads Ludlum’s superagents into augmented reality.

Merge makes supersophisticated iPhone apps resemble No. 2 pencils and scrap paper. A microphone in a molar cap and two studs in the skull enable a deceptively plain plastic box of circuits and software to seamlessly interface with the human brain, displayed through virtual icons and made functional by thought processes. Merge is the brainchild of Christian Dresner’s Dresner Industries. The behavioral science behind Merge is the work of Dresner’s friend, psychologist Gerhard Eichmann. Both are refugees from authoritarian Communist East Germany. Dresner is a Steve Jobs–Howard Hughes amalgamation; Eichmann is the weird-scientist cliché. Dresner releases Merge to the masses and then offers a tailored version exclusively to the U.S. military. Covert-One op Smith, a combat-experienced medical doctor, is assigned to lead the test. And Merge works, providing hyperawareness and seamless battlefield communication and proving so powerful in a real-world test that a group of desk jockeys outfights a special ops team. Covert-One chief Fred Klein, undercover at Anacostia Seagoing Yacht Club but with on-call access to President Sam Castilla, is cautious. Martin Zellerbach, Smith’s psychologically troubled childhood friend and wizard computer geek, is entranced. CIA operative Randi Russell isn’t sure. She’s found evidence that Merge has been tested in an Afghanistan village, with the subjects thereafter slaughtered by mercenaries. Smith and Russell soon run afoul of Maj. James Whitfield, leader of a secret Pentagon group allied with the military-industrial complex. Smith also discovers that Dresner Industries has financed tests in a secret human experimental North Korean laboratory. Mills rockets the action around the world.

Mills offers an interesting new premise for action-adventure, albeit with the resolution one tick less than satisfying.

Pub Date: March 26, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-446-53989-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2013

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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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Greed, love, and extrasensory abilities combine in two middling mysteries.

LABYRINTH

Coulter’s treasured FBI agents take on two cases marked by danger and personal involvement.

Dillon Savitch and his wife, Lacey Sherlock, have special abilities that have served them well in law enforcement (Paradox, 2018, etc.). But that doesn't prevent Sherlock’s car from hitting a running man after having been struck by a speeding SUV that runs a red light. The runner, though clearly injured, continues on his way and disappears. Not so the SUV driver, a security engineer for the Bexholt Group, which has ties to government agencies. Sherlock’s own concussion causes memory loss so severe that she doesn’t recognize Savitch or remember their son, Sean. The whole incident seems more suspicious when a blood test from the splatter of the man Sherlock hit reveals that he’s Justice Cummings, an analyst for the CIA. The agency’s refusal to cooperate makes Savitch certain that Bexholt is involved in a deep-laid plot. Meanwhile, Special Agent Griffin Hammersmith is visiting friends who run a cafe in the touristy Virginia town of Gaffers Ridge. Hammersmith, who has psychic abilities, is taken aback when he hears in his mind a woman’s cry for help. Reporter Carson DeSilva, who came to the area to interview a Nobel Prize winner, also has psychic abilities, and she overhears the thoughts of Rafer Bodine, a young man who has apparently kidnapped and possibly murdered three teenage girls. Unluckily, she blurts out her thoughts, and she’s snatched and tied up in a cellar by Bodine. Bodine may be a killer, but he’s also the nephew of the sheriff and the son of the local bigwig. So the sheriff arrests Hammersmith and refuses to accept his FBI credentials. Bodine's mother has psychic powers strong enough to kill, but she meets her match in Hammersmith, DeSilva, Savitch, and Sherlock.

Greed, love, and extrasensory abilities combine in two middling mysteries.

Pub Date: July 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-9365-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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