No one balances tight plotting, compassion for her flawed characters, and a broader vision of humanity like Penny.

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THE MADNESS OF CROWDS

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and the village of Three Pines, Québec, emerge from the pandemic to confront something in its way even more monstrous.

It’s not clear entirely how the invitation was extended, but Colette Roberge, Chancellor of the Université de l’Estrie, is hosting her old friend professor Abigail Robinson, of the University of Western Canada, for a talk on statistics. That sounds dry until Gamache realizes that the numbers Robinson is crunching concern the benefits that would accrue around the world if the powers that be launched a wholesale campaign of mercy killing that targeted the old, the sick, and the helpless. The subject is guaranteed to polarize audiences violently even as the endorsements Robinson is seeking from politicians and other influencers approach a tipping point at which her radical ideas might seem reasonable, even tenable. The capacity crowd crammed into an old gym to hear the talk is already rowdy when someone sets off a string of firecrackers and someone fires a gun, narrowly missing the speaker. The inevitable murder that follows on the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve strikes painful chords in everyone from young Sudanese activist Haniya Daoud, whose sufferings have left her filled with rage and disdain for the human race, to Gamache’s sidekick and son-in-law, Inspector Jean-Guy Beauvoir, who’s coping with his complicated feelings toward his baby daughter, Idola, who was born with Down sSyndrome, to thoracic surgeon Vincent Gilbert, the Asshole Saint hiding a dark secret that portends all the other secrets Gamache must toil to uncover and determine which of them is responsible for this post-pandemic nightmare.

No one balances tight plotting, compassion for her flawed characters, and a broader vision of humanity like Penny.

Pub Date: Aug. 24, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-2501-4526-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2021

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Perhaps A-list screenwriters will be able to spin TV gold from this sketchy treatment.

THE LIONESS

An actress and her entourage are kidnapped by Russians in Bohjalian’s uneven thriller.

In 1964, Hollywood’s gossip rags are agog as movie star Katie Barstow marries gallerist David Hill and takes her inner circle along on her honeymoon. And an adventuresome honeymoon it is—on safari in the Serengeti with aging big-game hunter Charlie Patton, who once helped Hemingway bag trophies. But Katie is not the star of this ensemble piece. The populous cast—a who’s who at the beginning is indispensable—includes Katie’s publicist, Reggie Stout; her agent, Peter Merrick; her best friend, Carmen Tedesco, a supporting actress who plays wisecracking sidekicks; and Terrance Dutton, Katie's recent co-star, a Black actor who's challenging Sidney Poitier's singularity in Hollywood. With obvious nods to Hemingway’s worst fear—masculine cowardice—Bohjalian adds in Felix Demeter, Carmen’s husband, a B-list screenwriter who reminds his wife of Hemingway’s weakling Francis Macomber. Felix seems a superfluous double of David, who feels inadequate because Katie is the breadwinner and his father is CIA. Then there’s Katie’s older brother, Billy Stepanov, whose abuse at the hands of their mother shaped the psychologist he is today; Billy’s pregnant wife, Margie; and Benjamin Kikwete, an apprentice safari guide. Thus, a proliferation of voices whose competing perspectives fragment rather than advance the story. The kidnapping plot seems less designed to test each character’s mettle than to exercise Bohjalian’s predilection for minute descriptions of gore. The most heartfelt portrayal here is of the Serengeti and its flora and fauna, but none of the human characters net enough face time to transcend their typecasting. The motives behind the kidnapping might have lent intrigue to the proceedings, but foreshadowing is so slight that the infodump explainer at the end leaves us shocked, mostly at how haphazard the plot is.

Perhaps A-list screenwriters will be able to spin TV gold from this sketchy treatment.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-385-54482-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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Generations may succeed generations, but Sandford’s patented investigation/action formula hasn’t aged a whit. Bring it on.

THE INVESTIGATOR

A domestic-terrorist plot gives the adopted daughter of storied U.S. Marshal Lucas Davenport her moment to shine.

Veteran oilman Vermilion Wright knows that losing a few thousand gallons of crude is no more than an accounting error to his company but could mean serious money to whomever’s found a way to siphon it off from wells in Texas’ Permian Basin. So he asks Sen. Christopher Colles, Chair of Homeland Security and Government Affairs, to look into it, and Colles persuades 24-year-old Letty Davenport, who’s just quit his employ, to return and partner with Department of Homeland Security agent John Kaiser to track down the thieves. The plot that right-winger Jane Jael Hawkes and her confederates, most of them service veterans with disgruntled attitudes and excellent military skills, have hatched is more dire than anything Wright could have imagined. They plan to use the proceeds from the oil thefts to purchase some black-market C4 essential to a major act of terrorism that will simultaneously express their alarm about the country’s hospitality to illegal immigrants and put the Jael-Birds on the map for good. But they haven’t reckoned with Letty, another kid born on the wrong side of the tracks who can outshoot the men she’s paired with and outthink the vigilantes she finds herself facing—and who, along with her adoptive father, makes a memorable pair of “pragmatists. Really harsh pragmatists” willing to do whatever needs doing without batting an eye or losing a night’s sleep afterward.

Generations may succeed generations, but Sandford’s patented investigation/action formula hasn’t aged a whit. Bring it on.

Pub Date: April 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-32868-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2022

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