RaveThe Washington Post... a dense, suspenseful bundle of Norwegian noir ... At 549 pages, The Kingdom (named after the Opgard’s family farm) feels as much like a miniseries as a novel. You’re so curious about what the next episode will bring that even if you’ve stepped away from the book for a meal or a good night’s sleep, you feel like one of those 19th-century readers who stormed the New York Harbor, awaiting the arrival of a new installment of a Dickens novel ... The sometimes droll, sometimes eerily affectless, occasionally enraged narrator is Roy ... While brutal emotional injury is at the center of the novel, social change is what keeps the Opgard family saga churning ... Scandinavian noir is famous for its gore, and while The Kingdom isn’t lacking in that department, most of what’s grisly here is psychological. There’s some excellent Albee-esque relational to-ing and fro-ing among Roy, Carl and Shannon, the wife Carl brings to Os from Canada ... Why do mentally healthy readers want to spend time with these godawful people? Writers like Nesbo have that knack for instilling just enough humanity in their miscreants that we keep hoping they might, if not repent, then at least acknowledge their moral scuzziness. Or, being morally imperfect ourselves, we sort of hope they don’t get caught — at least not yet ... Buddhists — and any number of Presbyterians — will know that The Kingdom can only end in one way, and most souls will find Nesbo’s finish both a relief and — don’t look while I flagellate myself — a bit of a disappointment ... Not at all disappointing is the great bulk of this generally mesmerizing novel, including its occasional wit.
RaveThe Washington Post... by the evidence of the scabrous and unrelentingly hilarious Squeeze Me, the Trump era is truly Carl Hiaasen’s moment ... One unnerving aspect of Squeeze Me is that it’s set in post-pandemic Palm Beach and Trump is still president. It will be useful for any pro-Biden readers to view this not as pessimism on Hiaasen’s part but simply as some additional deeply mordant humor. Just dive in and have a wonderful time ... Hiaasen can always be relied on to give readers a likable, decent-hearted, beset young female protagonist to fight for justice, and Angie Armstrong is great fun to follow around ... Hiaasen’s narrative wanders around a bit randomly, but with all the lovingly biting detail there isn’t a page here that flags. Even the Palm Beach hi-so names are choice, like the section in Gatsby where the long list of his party guests is so funny and revealing.
RaveThe Washington PostMysteries and thrillers set in Africa that are as good as Kwei Quartey’s are remarkably rare ... It’s Kwei Quartey, though, with his mysteries set in Ghana, who has been regularly bringing a part of the African continent authentically and strikingly to life ... a gem of a debut ... In addition to being suspenseful, The Missing American is wonderfully atmospheric, with people speaking mostly colloquial English, but also pidgin English and local dialects. Quartey has helpfully added a glossary.
MixedThe Washington Post... offers a vivid — if sometimes inartful — portrait of an American political landscape in ugly disarray. Sound familiar? ... Rosenstiel reimagines our headlines in newly nightmarish ways ... If all that feels unpleasantly real, the main characters in Oppo often talk like fundraising letters, too ... While I was often impatient with the novel’s not-how-real-people-talk palaver, I did think about sending some of Rosenstiel’s characters $25 ... Rosenstiel effectively renders wild political times but, unfortunately, his characters don’t come to life in an engaging way, nor do the meant-to-be-sinister figures who eavesdrop electronically or park down on the street menacingly cause much more than mild curiosity. It’s too bad, as the good guys in Oppo do manage to provide a satisfying denouement for Upton’s story — if not, alas, for the country’s.
MixedThe Washington Post... engaging but uneven ... Guess how long it takes for Hanna and Wiley to end up in bed together? It’s a well-worn pop-novel trope — he’s using her to pry info out of her, she’s using the affair to find out who the secretive Wiley really is and how dangerous he might be — and in Kanon’s hands it works well. The sex scenes are quite racy, the duplicity adding to the charge ... The sexy Aaron-Hanna cat-and-mouse game is the best thing in the novel. Also convincing are the ongoing geopolitical games ... Unfortunately, the novel grows wobbly in the last quarter or so, with cheesy car chases — do I hear the skritchy-scratch of a movie contract being signed? — and clumsy fisticuffs and gunfights that were uninteresting when they were staged in Monogram Pictures B-westerns in 1946. These scenes are unworthy of the moral and historical matters Kanon is grappling with. Luckily, in the final scene it’s the Aaron-Hanna relationship that rises to the narrative surface once again. This is believable and moving, less like Law of the Panhandle and more reminiscent of Casablanca — and that’s fitting.
John Le Carre
PositiveThe Washington PostJohn le Carré’s 25th novel is so topical it arrives with the beeping urgency of a news alert ... Trump himself has no speaking part in this dark, sometimes serio-comic, take on Russia’s malevolent role in the turmoil besetting Western democracies. But his name is often mentioned, and his face seems to press against the window of the novel like some creepy orange Halloween mask ... As usual, the characters le Carré respects, like Nat and his human-rights lawyer wife Prue, are lovingly examined in all their complexities, while his villains (Putin, Trump) are just as lovingly eviscerated.
MixedThe Washington PostSalander is less physically present this time — and that’s too bad, because she’s fascinating ... I wish I could report that I was gripped by all this, but not really. The novel meanders annoyingly, with Salander appearing only intermittently to lend Blomkvist mainly technical support ... All of this unfolds with prose that is borderline stilted and with major and minor plot turns that make little sense ... it’s just mighty peculiar ... Readers who are ambivalent about the violence and gore that are part and parcel of so many Scandinavian mysteries these days needn’t worry too much about The Girl Who Lived Twice.
PositiveThe Washington PostThere’s never a dull moment in Georgia with Karin Slaughter on the literary rampage ... It takes quite a while for this reckoning to eventuate, however, and 448 pages of blood-and-guts is more than some readers may need — or want. Luckily, interspersed among the carnage are some nice scenes with Linton and Trent ... Slaughter is wonderfully adept at showing decent people struggling in their relationships ... A few of Slaughter’s plot turns are shaky, while some are off-the-wall but still believable ... Slaughter also writes convincingly about the ease of killing hundreds of thousands of Americans employing science and technology that’s not all that hard to come by. One kilo of a particular substance, Slaughter posits, would be enough to wipe out the entire human race. To prevent that from happening, we shouldn’t have to rely on an evildoer’s helper coming down with appendicitis.
PositiveThe Washington Post\"Readers of The Better Sister, Alafair Burke’s wonderfully twisty new thriller should get ready to be led down the garden path to a conclusion so morally ambiguous a professional ethicist might have to be called in. You end up feeling both horrified and vaguely complicit ... The murder trial takes up the last third of the story, and it’s knowingly and suspensefully dramatized by Burke, herself a former prosecutor.\
MixedThe Washington Post\"Finder is an industrious researcher, and there’s lots of fascinating lore here about courtroom procedures and the professional lives of judges ... Still, it will take perseverance for some readers to make it as far as the believable juicy stuff here, given Finder’s dopey beyond words opening scene ... There’s plenty else in the novel I didn’t believe a word of ... But some of Finder’s scenes do land effectively ... In bringing this thriller to a conclusion, Finder hews closely to what readers might expect from the genre. Exactly how events resolve I shall not disclose. Suffice it to say that the denouement feels less than believable.\
PositiveThe Washington PostThe heroine of Val McDermid’s new novel is a wee bit of a crank ... Jessica Fletcher of Cabot Cove, Pirie isn’t ... It’s time that mystery writers noticed Europe’s newest arrivals [the Syrian refugees], whose lives are filled with a degree of suspense none of them ever wanted or deserved. Almost in passing, Broken Ground is revelatory in that regard.
MixedThe Washington PostThe first five gunshots ring out in a mall restaurant in suburban Savannah, Ga., where a deranged young man murders his girlfriend and her mother. Laura Oliver...and her daughter, Andy, are enjoying a chatty lunch nearby ... suddenly Laura is out of her chair, dispatching the maniac with a couple of deft moves that leave him on the floor, spouting blood from a fatal neck wound. An astonished Andy wonders, where did that come from? Does she really know her mother at all? As it happens, hardly ... Though the novel lacks some of the twists and surprises Slaughter’s readers have come to expect, and at times feels repetitious and padded, the characters keep you involved all the way..., slaughter has sometimes been criticized, including by me, for excessive blood and gore. In this novel the bloody mayhem just feels, unfortunately, like a slice of contemporary American life.
MixedPhiladelphia Inquirer...In Pieces of Her. The portrayals of Laura and Andy are as dense and complicated as the storyline. Andy is an especially winning creation, a decent-hearted but insecure young woman who works as a 911 police dispatcher. Getting wrapped up in her mother\'s dangerous world finally gives Andy a chance to prove herself as a confident and self-possessed grown-up. Watching Andy grow – and worrying about her survival – is one of the most gratifying aspects of the novel ... Although the novel lacks some of the twists and surprises Slaughter\'s readers have come to expect, and at times feels repetitious and padded, the characters keep you involved all the way, as does the vivid writing.
PositiveWashington PostYou have to wonder if Nir Hezroni’s consistently unsettling novel Last Instructions — about a rogue former Israeli intelligence agent bent on revenge — isn’t a little bit autobiographical. Hezroni worked in military intelligence before launching a high-tech career in Tel Aviv. And his portrayal of the Mossad — he just calls it the \'Organization\' — reads as if some major score-settling is going on. Whatever the author’s motivation, his depiction of a spy agency run by bumbling, amoral fools isn’t going to be good for the brand ... The Bernoulli project, as the Organization calls it, is set in motion after a post-Soviet Union nuclear warhead in Kazakhstan goes missing and Israeli intelligence concludes that Iran has a bead on it. One of 12 scientists meeting in Switzerland knows where the nuke has been stashed, so the Organization, playing it safe, chooses to kill all 12. A group of assassins is programmed through \'transformations\' in their brain chemistry to carry out the hits. One of them, Agent 10483, is inadvertently — or maybe on purpose — assigned three targets ... It’s worth making your way past the novel’s shakier elements to get to Hezroni’s big finish, a serving of dark comedy confirming that if this is how the defense establishment is going to keep us safe, we’re all in trouble.
PanThe Washington PostReaders learn all the latest interrogation techniques—one specialist loosens tongues with a kind of aroma therapy—and by the time you get to the last page of Spymaster you’ll know the difference between a \'Mark 48 belt-fed machine gun\' and a \'LaRue Tactical 6.5 Grendel FDE rifle with a Schmidt & Bender 5-25x56 scope with an illuminated reticle\' ... This minutia on firearms and Thor’s geopolitical musings—especially on Putin’s territorial ambitions—are often more interesting than what actually happens in the novel. His narrative prose ranges from the workmanlike to the snooze-inducing ... Thor’s banality even spoils an otherwise exciting scene where Harvath and some of his cohorts skydive into Lithuanian airspace, glide over the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, then parachute into a pasture at night. The best line Thor can come up with for Harvath as he soars across the inky sky is: \'There was absolutely no other feeling in the world like it.\'
RaveThe Washington Post\"When reviewing a book by Walter Mosley, it’s hard not to simply quote all the great lines. There are so many of them. You want to share the pleasures of Mosley’s jazz-inflected dialogue and the moody, descriptive passages reminiscent of Raymond Chandler at his best … Mosley’s densely populated novel is full of characters like Frost, many of them African American, who have struggled to rise above unlucky beginnings. Some, like Oliver himself, have more or less succeeded; others, like Leonard ‘Manny’ Compton, have not … Down the River Unto the Sea — his 53rd book — is as gorgeous a novel as anything he’s ever written. And with Joe King Oliver I’m betting, and hoping, he’s given us a character we haven’t seen the last of.\
MixedThe Washington PostReaders of Thomas Perry’s new thriller, The Bomb Maker, will practically have earned Ph.Ds in sophisticated explosive-making techniques before finishing this tale of a mad bomber on the rampage in Los Angeles. It’s fascinating, sinister stuff — and Perry’s depraved mastermind is all too creepily believable ... [Perry] adeptly plays on our awareness of public-place terrorist bombings, creating an atmosphere of anxiety and dread. Despite several holes in the plot, you’ll keep flipping the pages, ever fearful of what bloody horror will strike unlucky L.A. next ... Despite its shortcomings — I have a list of five major plot holes — The Bomb Maker does one thing very well. Plainly well-researched, it makes graphically real the dangers faced by American urban bomb squads in an era when they could be called into service any day.
RaveThe Washington PostTo anyone who has ever said that prize-winning Washington Post columnist and popular spy novelist David Ignatius is too much of an apologist for the CIA, his new book is a dramatic rebuttal. The Quantum Spy is a fascinating, beautifully textured thriller in which the CIA comes across as a racist, sexist institution whose biases play right into the hands of hostile foreign powers ... Ignatius even makes the scientific information on quantum computers comprehensible to the lay reader. Nor is there too much of it ... As entertaining as this novel is, it’s also disturbing in its depiction of racial and gender prejudice in a place where these attitudes aren’t simply unjust; they get in the way of the institution’s worthy mission ... for inside dope on the day-to-day work and personal lives among America’s espionage personnel, Ignatius is unbeatable.
RaveThe Washington Post...a timely, affecting, suspenseful and morally complex thriller. In fact, it’s one of the best thrillers I’ve read this year ... This time Child confronts the opioid epidemic, and he does so with keenness, understanding and a burning anger over the scourge’s causes — poverty, hopelessness, war — and the haplessness of the U.S. criminal justice system’s response, or lack thereof. Given the subject, Reacher is more thoughtful and measured than usual, relying more on his wits ... Readers will practically need a GPS to follow Reacher and his posse around the Western plains through parts of South Dakota and Wyoming, and it’s a pleasure to ride along. Child writes beautifully about the vast open spaces of the West, with its physical landscape that’s magnificent but a human landscape that’s often not pretty at all.
RaveThe Philadelphia Inquirer...a timely, suspenseful, morally complex thriller, one of the best I've read this year … Reacher is more thoughtful and measured than usual, relying more on wits than fists. Not that fans will be disappointed … It's a pleasure to ride with Reacher and posse through parts of South Dakota and Wyoming. Child writes beautifully about the West, its magnificent physical landscape but often ugly human landscape. We see the daily lives of addicts with heartbreaking exactitude. Officer Sanderson clearly suffered the worst kind of physical and psychic wounds in Afghanistan.
RaveThe Washington PostIt is rotten to the core, as it's convincingly portrayed in a wonderful mystery series that is at once sprightly and densely layered, like the Thais themselves ... Haunts in this third of the Sonchai series acts as both noun and verb ...central crime in Bangkok Haunts is the murder by strangulation of a prostitute whom Sonchai once was nuts about ... What never falter are Sonchai's captivating, sometimes teasing voice ––– he often addresses the reader as 'farang' (the Thai word for Westerner) and Burdett's affectionate take on everything visiting farangs find fascinatingly upside down and backward in Thailand ... In Burdett's always amazing Thailand, euphemism is reserved for the sinister.
RaveThe Washington Post...what had been mainly a novel about a fractious family and the sources of its pain turns into a riveting legal thriller. The plot twists here are satisfyingly surprising and plausible, but it’s Slaughter’s prodigious gifts of characterization that make her stand out among thriller writers ... Slaughter’s satirical touches are as deft as her grimmer renditions of real life ... Some readers may find that at 500 pages The Good Daughter is a little longer than it needs to be (Is it mean to fat-shame a novel?), but if I were to attempt to pare it down, I don’t know where I would start. Sleekness has its virtues but in Slaughter’s big tome neither does there seem to be a word wasted, which is quite a feat.
RaveThe Washington Post...emotionally gripping and hugely satisfying...Furst is a relentless and exacting researcher, and other memorable scenes are of hair-raising air battles over France; attempts to land small British rescue aircraft in farmers’ fields; sneaking demolition artists ashore near a casino in Deauville to begin the work of disrupting the machinery of the occupation. It is dangerous work every minute of every day, and not all cell members survive...Furst rolls all of this out with his usual steady-as-she-goes pacing and a prose style that nicely mixes the elegant and the matter-of-fact.