Covert action more le Carré than Ludlum.

PORTRAIT OF A SPY

Gabriel Allon can scrape away at all that obscures to uncover reality, whether the shadows are blemishes on a Titian masterpiece or the secrets of a maniacal terrorist.

Allon retired from a covert unit of Israel’s intelligence service, the Office. He now restores art, a benign profession he practices in England. Accompanied by his wife, Chiara, also an Office veteran, Allon is visiting London to examine a painting in need of his expert touch. On a busy street, the ever-alert Allon notices a man acting suspiciously and attempts to intervene. But the police see Allon draw a weapon and tackle him instead of the terrorist bomber. The deadly explosion is one in a series orchestrated by Rashid al-Husseini, a brilliant propagandist, and Malik al-Zubair, a bloody radical who learned to kill in Iraq. Allon is soon drafted into an effort to neutralize al-Husseini by his former compatriots at the Office. The Israelis are cooperating with the CIA, the agency duped by al-Husseini—think Anwar al-Awlaki—before he slipped into the jihadist movement. Silva’s (The Rembrandt Affair, 2010, etc.) narrative is linear, moving from London to Paris to Washington and into the deserts of the Middle East. The most affecting character is Nadia al-Baraki, wealthy daughter of Abdul Aziz al-Baraki, an ally of the House of Saud, and a financier who funneled money to the jihadists. Nadia loved her father deeply, not realizing he supported Wahhabi fundamentalism, the sort of religious extremism that resulted in her closest childhood friend being victim of an "honor killing." Nadia learns that Allon is the agent who assassinated her father, but she decides to enter into the complicated plot to kill Malik al-Zubair and to destroy al-Husseini’s movement. Other characters verge on cliché, although they are fittingly intriguing for the genre. Gadgets, back-stabbing machinations and political duplicities lend an aura of realism to the intricate plot.

Covert action more le Carré than Ludlum.

Pub Date: July 19, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-207218-4

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 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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Joe, who insists that “I’m not on a side,” spends more time than he’d like in rooms with ceilings, but the mystery is strong...

COLD WIND

Wyoming Fish and Game Warden Joe Pickett’s fondest dream becomes his worst nightmare when his loathsome mother-in-law is arrested for murder.

Earl Alden, the sixth suitor to take Missy Vankueren Longbrake Alden to the nuptial bed, was proud of the 100 new wind turbines sprouting on his spread, the Thunderbird Ranch. But someone must have disliked both them and him, because Joe finds his corpse chained to the vane of one of them, rotating briskly. Joe’s current nemesis, county sheriff Kyle McLanahan, and rookie county attorney Lisa Rich, announce that they’ve got an airtight case against Missy based on the testimony of an unnamed informant who maintains that she engaged him to kill the Earl of Lexington, who in a reversal of the customary order of things had been preparing to divorce her before she could tire of him. Joe, whose dislike of his overbearing, manipulative mother-in-law crystallized into something harder when she divorced rancher Bud Longbrake, confiscated his family’s property and left him empty-handed, finds himself in the unwelcome position of hunting for exculpatory evidence. He’d love to have the help of outlaw falconer Nate Romanowski once more. But Nate, following a serious quarrel with Joe (Nowhere to Run, 2010), has gone to ground somewhere he hopes will be safe from the old Special Forces colleagues he suspects have been sent to find and kill him. It looks like both men will be on their own until they collide just in time for a stunning courtroom finale.

Joe, who insists that “I’m not on a side,” spends more time than he’d like in rooms with ceilings, but the mystery is strong enough to compensate, and the revelations about wind farms will curl your hair no matter which side you’re on.

Pub Date: March 22, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-15735-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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