Somehow, Greaney cranks out one winner after another. That’s a lot of work for the Gray Man and plenty of pleasure for...

AGENT IN PLACE

Seventh in the high-powered Gray Man series (Gunmetal Gray, 2017, etc.).

The Islamic State group is about to execute Courtland Gentry—the Gray Man—and leave his body floating with others in a bloody lake. Then the story backs up a week to show how he got into this unholy mess. Gentry is ex-CIA, now an assassin for hire. He meets in Paris with Dr. Tarek Halaby, head of the Free Syria Exile Union, or what’s left of it. All the brave members are dead, Halaby says, and he jokes that perhaps Gentry would like to kill the Syrian president for him. “A mission into Syria,” they both agree, is “a fool’s errand.” Which naturally means he'll go there. Halaby hires him to rescue the model Bianca Medina from an imminent IS attack, part of a plan that Halaby hopes will "deal a serious blow to the Syrian regime and hasten the end" of the cruel civil war. A stunning beauty who’s protected by bodyguards in a Paris hotel, Medina is the lover of Ahmed al-Azzam, the brutal Syrian president and “most horrible man in the world"—and also, as she tells Halaby after Gentry brings her back to his safe house, she's secretly the mother of Jamal, Azzam's only son. Azzam’s wife, Shakira, aka “the First Lady of Hell,” knows about Bianca and wants her dead. (Thus the IS attack, which she manipulated.) Halaby isn't sure if Shakira knows about Jamal (she does), but he's sure she'll kill the boy if she does. Bianca is itching to return to Syria to be with Jamal, who's been left behind with a bodyguard, but Gentry, against his own better judgment, agrees to go get him. If there’s “one shot in hell” to snatch the child from the evil dad, “that shot was the Gray Man," a sharpshooter who will gladly kill Azzam if only he can get close enough. So, as anyone who follows the series knows, plenty of blood spills. Whether any of that blood is Assad's—oops, Azzam's—is for the reader to find out. Court Gentry claims to kill only for cash, yet he mostly nails just the bad guys—deep down, he has a moral code. Readers of the great Tom Clancy will salivate over this fast-moving and well-plotted yarn, which is part of a consistently appealing series in which each assignment is billed as the most dangerous ever.

Somehow, Greaney cranks out one winner after another. That’s a lot of work for the Gray Man and plenty of pleasure for thriller fans.

Pub Date: Feb. 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-451-48890-9

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Dec. 12, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2018

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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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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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