Grisham fans will be pleased, graphic details of evil behavior and all.

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A TIME FOR MERCY

A small-town Mississippi courtroom becomes the setting for a trademark Grisham legal tussle.

Stuart Kofer is not a nice guy. He drinks way too much and likes to brawl. One night, coming home in a foul mood with a blood alcohol count more than triple the legal limit, he breaks his live-in girlfriend’s jaw. He’s done terrible things to her children, too—and now her 16-year-old boy, Drew, puts an end to the terror. Unfortunately for the kid in a place where uniforms are worshipped, Stu was a well-liked cop. “Did it really matter if he was sixteen or sixty? It certainly didn’t matter to Stu Kofer, whose stock seemed to rise by the hour,” writes Grisham of local opinion about giving Drew the benefit of the doubt. Jake Brigance, the hero of the tale, is a lawyer who’s down to his last dime until a fat wrongful-death case is settled. It doesn’t help his bank book when the meaningfully named Judge Omar Noose orders him to defend the kid. Backed by a brilliant paralegal whose dream is to be the first Black female lawyer in the county, he prepares for what the local sheriff correctly portends will be “an ugly trial” that may well land Drew on death row. As ever, Grisham capably covers the mores of his native turf, from gun racks to the casual use of the N-word. As well, he examines Bible Belt attitudes toward abortion and capital punishment as well as the inner workings of the courtroom, such as jury selection: “What will your jury look like?” asks a trial consultant, to which Jake replies, “A regular posse. It’s rural north Mississippi, and I’ll try to change venue to another county simply because of the notoriety.” The story runs on a touch long, as Grisham yarns tend to do, and it gets a bit gory at times, but the level of tension is satisfyingly high all the way to the oddly inconclusive end.

Grisham fans will be pleased, graphic details of evil behavior and all.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-385-54596-9

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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Cameron is a worthy keeper of the Clancy flame. Fans will be pleased.

TOM CLANCY SHADOW OF THE DRAGON

Cameron continues the late Tom Clancy’s long tradition of exciting thrillers featuring the Ryan family and rock-ribbed American heroes.

As an American science vessel pushes through Arctic ice in the Chukchi Borderland, a researcher hears banging and underwater human screams. Soon it becomes clear that a "boomer is in distress and calling for help.” Said boomer is a People’s Liberation Army submarine patrolling the Arctic, and its crew will die if it can’t surface. At the same time, series regular John Clark is in Vietnam training new agent Lisanne Robertson on how to avoid landing in a “Yourassisgrassistan” prison. And the Chinese have their worries as they combat the “Three Evils” of “terrorism, separatism, and religious extremism.” They crack down on Uyghurs, who want “independence from the Chinese boot,” so Chinese intelligence is looking for a Uyghur separatist woman in western China whose husband had been trundled off for reeducation. But luckily, “the good guys”—in particular, the CIA’s John Clark—are looking for her too. It turns out that the woman has specific engineering knowledge of considerable military value to the great powers, and she wants to escape. Maybe Clark can help, or maybe not. And as if all this isn’t complicated enough, the CIA is pretty sure it has a mole whom the Chinese have code-named SURVEYOR and who is selling secrets to Beijing. The mole hunters search relentlessly, because they “hated Communism with the intensity of a thousand suns. Socialism was no better.” Clancy’s fans are used to these grand-scale plots, where a big part of the fun is seeing how all the puzzle pieces fit together in one big salute to American power and righteousness. And as for Cameron’s style, it’s as if Clancy himself were at the keyboard.  

Cameron is a worthy keeper of the Clancy flame. Fans will be pleased.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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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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