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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Too much drama at the end detracts from a finely wrought and subtle conundrum.

THE WOMAN IN CABIN 10

Ware (In A Dark, Dark Wood, 2015) offers up a classic “paranoid woman” story with a modern twist in this tense, claustrophobic mystery.

Days before departing on a luxury cruise for work, travel journalist Lo Blacklock is the victim of a break-in. Though unharmed, she ends up locked in her own room for several hours before escaping; as a result, she is unable to sleep. By the time she comes onboard the Aurora, Lo is suffering from severe sleep deprivation and possibly even PTSD, so when she hears a big splash from the cabin next door in the middle of the night, “the kind of splash made by a body hitting water,” she can’t prove to security that anything violent has actually occurred. To make matters stranger, there's no record of any passenger traveling in the cabin next to Lo’s, even though Lo herself saw a woman there and even borrowed makeup from her before the first night’s dinner party. Reeling from her own trauma, and faced with proof that she may have been hallucinating, Lo continues to investigate, aided by her ex-boyfriend Ben (who's also writing about the cruise), fighting desperately to find any shred of evidence that she may be right. The cast of characters, their conversations, and the luxurious but confining setting all echo classic Agatha Christie; in fact, the structure of the mystery itself is an old one: a woman insists murder has occurred, everyone else says she’s crazy. But Lo is no wallflower; she is a strong and determined modern heroine who refuses to doubt the evidence of her own instincts. Despite this successful formula, and a whole lot of slowly unraveling tension, the end is somehow unsatisfying. And the newspaper and social media inserts add little depth.

Too much drama at the end detracts from a finely wrought and subtle conundrum.

Pub Date: July 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-3293-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scout Press/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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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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