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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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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Fans of smart horror will sink their teeth into this one.

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THE SOUTHERN BOOK CLUB'S GUIDE TO SLAYING VAMPIRES

Things are about to get bloody for a group of Charleston housewives.

In 1988, the scariest thing in former nurse Patricia Campbell’s life is showing up to book club, since she hasn’t read the book. It’s hard to get any reading done between raising two kids, Blue and Korey, picking up after her husband, Carter, a psychiatrist, and taking care of her live-in mother-in-law, Miss Mary, who seems to have dementia. It doesn’t help that the books chosen by the Literary Guild of Mt. Pleasant are just plain boring. But when fellow book-club member Kitty gives Patricia a gloriously trashy true-crime novel, Patricia is instantly hooked, and soon she’s attending a very different kind of book club with Kitty and her friends Grace, Slick, and Maryellen. She has a full plate at home, but Patricia values her new friendships and still longs for a bit of excitement. When James Harris moves in down the street, the women are intrigued. Who is this handsome night owl, and why does Miss Mary insist that she knows him? A series of horrific events stretches Patricia’s nerves and her Southern civility to the breaking point. (A skin-crawling scene involving a horde of rats is a standout.) She just knows James is up to no good, but getting anyone to believe her is a Sisyphean feat. After all, she’s just a housewife. Hendrix juxtaposes the hypnotic mundanity of suburbia (which has a few dark underpinnings of its own) against an insidious evil that has taken root in Patricia’s insular neighborhood. It’s gratifying to see her grow from someone who apologizes for apologizing to a fiercely brave woman determined to do the right thing—hopefully with the help of her friends. Hendrix (We Sold Our Souls, 2018, etc.) cleverly sprinkles in nods to well-established vampire lore, and the fact that he’s a master at conjuring heady 1990s nostalgia is just the icing on what is his best book yet.

Fans of smart horror will sink their teeth into this one.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68369-143-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Quirk Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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