One more superfluous shoot-'em-up catering to the most common denominator.

THE EMPEROR'S TOMB

Another hasty exercise in suspense from airport novelist Berry.

Secret codes? Check. Hidden archeological marvel? Check. Square-jawed, steely-eyed hero? Check. This is the latest entry in Berry’s (The Paris Vendetta, 2009, etc.) Cotton Malone series, starring the mild-mannered bookseller who snaps into a gun-toting, cinematically framed hero at a moment’s notice. This time the bad guys get Malone’s notice in a hurry when they kidnap his sort-of girlfriend Cassiopeia Vitt, forcing him into kick-ass Bourne mode. After a turbulent opening, Berry settles into his modus operandi: endless, eye-glazing exposition delivered by characters conjured up to serve just that purpose. Here, it’s Malone’s old boss Stephanie Nelle from the U.S. Justice Department and the shadowy Russian operative who lets Malone in on this week’s conspiracy. Three powerful Chinese officials—Karl Tang, the first vice premier, Ni Yong, the head of the government’s anti-corruption efforts, and Pau Wen, a former advisor to Mao—are circling around a world-shifting (and unbelievably absurd) secret. The Chinese have found that oil, instead of originating from compressed biological material, is “simply a primordial material the earth forms and exudes on a continual basis.” Crafty Cotton Malone gets it right away: “It’s endless?” Cue break-in to an Antwerp museum to steal an ancient lamp (read: MacGuffin), followed by a supersecret flight to China to break into the tomb of Qin Shi, the first Emperor of China, during which the bad guys are revealed as member of the Ba, a 2,000-year-old supersecret sect. Oh, and they’re eunuchs, too. Berry does the job as well as most of his peers, but the long-winded conspiracy theories and controversy-baiting premise leave much to be desired. None of which will prevent it from becoming a bestseller.

One more superfluous shoot-'em-up catering to the most common denominator.

Pub Date: Nov. 23, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-345-50549-1

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2010

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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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It’s hard to imagine a single white-collar wage slave who won’t thrill to this latest Robin Hood fantasy of righteous...

WORTH DYING FOR

From the Jack Reacher series , Vol. 15

Whatever business Jack Reacher has in Virginia will have to wait till the world’s most distractible soldier of fortune cleans up the mess he’s stumbled into amid the cornfields of the Midwest.

After hitchhiking as far as Nebraska, Reacher minds his own business precisely long enough for the sozzled doctor sharing a hotel bar with him to get a call from a patient with a nosebleed. Forget about ignoring her, Reacher tells the startled medico. If she’s had nosebleeds recently, she may well be taking aspirin that’s thinned her blood and made it likely that she’ll keep on bleeding. Better to have Reacher drive him to Eleanor Duncan’s house so that he can see whether her husband’s been beating her. In the end, Eleanor’s nosebleed turns out to be inconsequential—it’s not even Seth Duncan who’s beaten her this time—but his perverse, aggressive, utterly characteristic stint as the good Samaritan pulls Reacher into the orbit of Seth’s father Jacob and Seth’s uncles Jasper and Jonas. Because they’re a tight-knit family, they don’t plan to take Reacher’s interference lying down. And because they’re engaged in criminal enterprise, their clients, already putting pressure on them for a mysteriously delayed delivery coming down from Canada, plan to go after this interloper themselves. In a flash, the ex-Army cop is the subject of a manhunt by the Duncans’ thugs, their Italian client’s thugs, the Italian’s Lebanese client’s thugs and the Lebanese’s Iranian clients’ thugs. With so many strong-arm types flooding the prairie, there are plenty of opportunities for violence, treachery and double-crossing—think of a Nebraska remake of A Fistful of Dollars with an international cast—and Child (61 Hours, 2010, etc.) doesn’t miss a single one. By the time he’s finally shaken the dust from his feet, Reacher will have plumbed the depths of a monstrous unsolved crime, cleaned up the county and killed a lot of mostly nameless guys who really deserved it.

It’s hard to imagine a single white-collar wage slave who won’t thrill to this latest Robin Hood fantasy of righteous vengeance.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-385-34431-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2010

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