Mystery/Thriller Book Reviews

Black Order by James Rollins

William Morrow, July, 2006
Hardcover, 423 pages
ISBN: 0060763884
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Black Order
by James Rollins At the end of World War II, the Nazis smuggled out and hid the research for a number of cutting-edge experiments involving quantum theory. The research didn't stop after the war and has continued to this day. When villages and a monastery in a remote area of Nepal suffer a devastating illness that causes madness, Painter Crowe, director of SIGMA Force, infiltrates the monastery to investigate. Lisa Cummings, an American doctor, is brought into help investigate and finds Crowe, the last remaining sane occupant of the monastery. They evade a mysterious assassination squad sent to clean up the mess but are eventually captured themselves. What they find in the mountains of Tibet is a terrifying secret that could change the face of humanity forever. Meanwhile, SIGMA Force operative Grayson Pierce is in Copenhagen running for his life, after his investigation into who is buying up certain rare books and manuscripts turned deadly. The two investigations merge, and it will be up to Crowe and Lisa in Nepal - and the other members of SIGMA Force working on the other side of the globe -- to put a stop to a deadly terrorist plot that could literally remake the world.

James Rollins manages to amaze once again with his latest thriller which examines the theory of evolution (including a very interesting twist on "intelligent design") and the very strange world of quantum physics. Rollins enters the territory of Michael Crichton and Clive Cussler and takes his place as one of the top adventure thriller authors today.

Hit Parade by Lawrence Block

William Morrow, July, 2006
Hardcover, 304 pages
ISBN: 0060840889
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Hit Parade
by Lawrence Block John Keller, assassin for hire, is starting to worry that he might be a sociopath after his business associate and friend Dot asks him one day if he thinks he might be one. The question disturbs Keller more than he likes to admit, and his existential musings as he carries on with his morally reprehensible profession makes for some vastly entertaining reading. In a series of vignettes, Keller takes care of business while discoursing on various topics, from stamp collecting (his one true obsession), to baseball, to retirement and the aftermath of 9/11. In one of the funniest stories, Keller gets hired to take out a killer pit bull named Fluffy who has an owner who is truly vile. One thing leads to another and -- before you know it -- Keller is an unwitting player in a farce that really has nothing to do with the dog at all. It just doesn't get any darker -- or any funnier -- than the Fluffy adventure. Keller mulls over the possibility of retirement in this book. That would be a boon for anyone who's on an assassination list, but a sad day for readers.

The Messenger by Daniel Silva

Putnam, July, 2006
Hardcover, 352 pages
ISBN: 0399153357
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The Messenger
by Daniel Silva Israeli intelligence agent Gabriel Allon returns in this gripping thriller from Daniel Silva. After his last mission, Gabriel had his face and name splashed across the French newspapers; his cover is now thoroughly blown. Offered the directorship of his intelligence service, Gabriel is considering settling down in Israel with his love Chiara. When the Vatican is attacked and Gabriel's old boss Ari Shamron is ambushed, Gabriel agrees to run a covert op for the Mossad, secretly backed by the CIA. The mission is to find and liquidate one of the world's worst terrorists and his personal banker, a wealthy Saudi who collects Impressionist paintings when he's not arranging financing for Al-Qaeda terror strikes. The terrorist mastermind is Ahmed bin Shafiq, a former Saudi intelligence officer. Ahmed bin Shafiq's personal banker is Saudi billionaire Abdul Aziz al-Bakari, known as "Zizi" to his friends who share in his lavish, globe-trotting lifestyle. Gabriel must find a way to get an agent inside Zizi's organization, and gorgeous American art expert Sarah Bancroft is perfect. With Sarah and a missing Van Gogh masterpiece as bait, Gabriel and his team set out on their most dangerous and harrowing mission to date.

Daniel Silva ups the action quotient in The Messenger, which squarely addresses the politically inconvenient facts that the majority of funding for terrorism is funneled through Saudi Arabian "charities." Silva meshes two fascinating worlds: the cutthroat world of fine art and the cutthroat world of international espionage to create a thriller as entertaining as it is informative. Silva doesn't shy away from his antipathy for the House of Saud and how its activities are hurting its ally, the United States. Global politics are complicated and make for strange bedfellows, and that too is illustrated in Silva's books, which feature an Israeli assassin who has a close friendship with a Vatican cardinal and who has saved the Pope's life. A very interesting vignette between Gabriel and the American president open the door for what should prove to be an equally compelling sequel.

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