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Gabriel Allon is back in action.

For a time, it looked like Israel’s most famous spy might actually retreat to a desk job. In The Black Widow (2016) and The House of Spies (2017), it seemed as if Allon's creator was bringing younger, secondary characters to the foreground, but Allon has now taken center stage again. In this way and others, Silva's latest feels like a throwback to some of the earlier books in the series as well as to spy novels of the Cold War era. This is not the product of a lack of creativity on Silva’s part but rather a reflection of current events. Russia is the adversary here, and Allon and his team must find the one woman who can reveal the identity of a mole who has reached the highest echelons of Britain’s MI6. The search will take Allon deep into the past, into the secret heart of one of the 20th century's greatest intelligence scandals. Silva’s work has always had a political edge, and his storytelling has only grown more biting recently. Although he doesn’t name the current American leader, he does mention “a presidential tryst with an adult film star” as well as that president’s strange fondness for Vladimir Putin. Silva depicts a world in which communist true believers are dying out while far-right populists around the world look to the New Russia as a triumph of hard-line nationalism. The alliances that have sustained Western democracies are fraying, and Europe is preparing for a future in which the United States is no longer a reliable friend, nor a superpower. Silva’s work is always riveting, but this summer blockbuster isn’t exactly an escape—especially for readers who stick around for the author’s note at the end. Although the Gabriel Allon novels are interrelated, Silva is adept at crafting narratives that can stand alone. This thriller will satisfy the author’s fans while it will also appeal to those who appreciate past masters of the genre like John le Carré and Graham Greene.

Gripping as always and grimly realistic.

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Quinn Colson, the sheriff of Mississippi’s Tibbehah County, juggles old-school and newfangled gangs while praying that someone will get him to the church on time.

Now that Quinn’s finally looking forward to getting married and acquiring an instant family that includes nurse Maggie Powers and her 7-year-old son, Brandon, he’d love to cut back on the crime-busting. Fate, as usual, has other plans. Heath Pritchard, the incorrigible marijuana grower Quinn’s late uncle and predecessor Hamp Beckett locked up 23 years ago, has just been released, and he’s eager to horn in on his nephews, dirt-track racers Tyler and Cody Pritchard, who’ve been carrying on the family business on their own less obtrusive terms. Heath’s unforgettable way of announcing his return to his nearest and dearest is to tell them that he needs their help disposing of the remains of Ordeen Davis, whom he caught nosing around on the Pritchard spread. Fannie Hathcock wouldn’t have sent Ordeen, her bartender and general factotum at Vienna’s Place, the county’s premier cathouse, over there in the first place if she hadn’t been getting squeezed between the Pritchard boys, who’d been violating a long-standing agreement with her by running way more weed than they could have been raising themselves, and the Dixie Mafia, for whom she’s been laundering money and providing other services for years and who now send a pair of hands-on managers to Vienna’s Place. The only one who’s in a position to do anything about this mess, it seems, is Quinn’s old friend Boom Kimbrough, whom DEA agent Nathalie Wilkins is pressing to go undercover at Sutpen Trucking, still another major player in the drug trade. Will Boom last long enough to serve as Quinn’s best man?

Though it’s amusing on its own terms, the constant infighting among lowlifes keeps this installment below Atkins’ high standard (The Fallen, 2017, etc.). When bad guys are mostly targeting other bad guys, there’s just not that much for good guys to do besides stand aside and watch the carnage.

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A Swiss filmmaker gets ensnared in a plan to ensure Nazi domination of world cinema in this oddball historical fiction.

Emil Nägeli has received some praise for his cinematic efforts, enough to draw the attention of the Nazi officials chafing at Hollywood's dominance of the world cinema market. With the luminaries of German cinema either dead (F.W. Murnau), decamped for Hollywood (Karl Freund), or, unknown to the authorities, about to (Fritz Lang), Nägeli is chosen as just prestigious enough and, perhaps, malleable. He is charged with making a film that will be such an artistic triumph that it will open cinema as a new front in the coming battle for world domination. His location for shooting, for reasons never really made clear, is Japan, where the Japanese film minister, Amakasu, has his own schemes for cultural domination. Also flitting through are Charlie Chaplin (in a plot that borders on slander) and the German film critics Lotte Eisner and Siegfried Kracauer. What this is supposed to add up to is anyone's guess, as the novel is interested in neither plot nor dramatization. Nearly half of the slim book is taken up with the childhood traumas of both Nägeli and Amakasu and any memories that have to do with ear wax or rotting teeth. There is no sense that Nägeli is under any pressure from Nazi officials, and the vague overtures to making him a figure of resistance don't amount to much. Nothing has any weight here. Fritz Lang escapes Germany as if he were simply catching a train to the country. And the reader is given no reason to care about either the characters or what story there is given the cold detachment with which all are portrayed.

Imagine Weimar Germany as Night of the Living Dead minus the thrills.

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Sammy’s Halloween tricks are no treat for his family when they last the whole year.

The Loomis family really goes all out on Halloween, their haunted house putting all others to shame. But no one loves the holiday more than Sammy, the youngest child. In fact, the day after Halloween, he’s already planning improvements for next year’s celebration, and he practices them on his hapless family. But the Thanksgiving turkey carved like a jack-o’-lantern doesn’t impress, the zombie Christmas is a dud, and the Frankenstein Fourth of July is the last straw: No more Halloween until the rest of the family is ready. But at this point, Sammy’s older siblings recognize his good ideas and offer to help him refine the ones that are not so awesome, and this year’s haunted house is the best ever. Sibling cooperation, parental recognition of hard work, and Sammy’s stick-to-itiveness give this book a little something extra beyond just a funny Halloween tale. Petrik’s digital illustrations have a Saturday morning–cartoon aesthetic. The Loomises all present white, and the sister and mother wear glasses.

Perseverance has its rewards. (Picture book. 4-8)

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A concert pianist finds his life and mind drifting after an accident damages his hand in this gloomy, evocative novel.

Mr. Field is sleeping when the book starts. He is sleeping when a train crash shatters his left wrist. He is sleeping when his wife leaves him. The scant story he narrates alternates between stark reality and a dreamlike limbo, specifics and vagueness. With the compensation money he receives, he buys a white house, a box on stilts, that overlooks the sea on the Capetown coast of South Africa and was designed by an admirer of Le Corbusier. Mr. Field—no definite first name is given—meets the admirer’s widow, who lives nearby, and she soon haunts his waking life. He spends time peeping through her garden window. He often encounters a stray dog in a graveyard when he’s out walking. In the widow’s sitting room, a Chagall-like print shows a woman, a dog, and a rudimentary box of a house. Near Mr. Field’s house, a circular residential tower is being built. He wanders around his house, which is in a state of decay, as is Mr. Field. He is sad about his lost career and lost wife. His sadness wearies him: “I was so tired of being sad.” Maybe his wife found his sadness tiresome. Before she left, she played computer solitaire and studied the sea, writing observations in a notebook he later finds. Kilalea, who grew up in South Africa and whose previous book, One Eye’d Leigh, was a poetry collection that hasn't been published in the U.S., conjures from precise prose and elements as basic and fraught as Tarot card images—sea, widow, wife, round tower, box house, sad man—a kind of tone poem that seems at times forced but ultimately resonates well beyond one man’s depression.

An auspicious debut that challenges the reader to follow the progress of mental distress and bravely offers little relief from the painful sight.

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A young magician who cannot cast magic must prove himself in other ways in the first installment of a new fantasy series from de Castell (Tyrant's Throne, 2017, etc.).

Kellen is the oldest child of two powerful magicians in a culture that prizes magic above all. At 16, he needs to prove himself a worthy heir to his family name—but literally everyone Kellen knows can cast more magic than him, including his little sister, Shalla, a magical prodigy. Desperate not to embarrass his family or be relegated to the magicless servant caste, Kellen hones his other skills—trickery, guile, and creativity. But Kellen's attempts to game the system only buy him more trouble...though also an unpredictable ally: a foreigner named Ferius Parfax, who has her own tricks. In turn, this leads the Dowager Magus (widow of the recently departed ruler) to recruit Kellen to spy on Parfax. Kellen's questions, and loyalties, multiply quickly: Who is Parfax, and why is she here? Is his growing friendship and identification with her worth disobeying the woman whose influence is letting him advance in his magical tests? Who will be the new ruler? What dark secrets are being kept from Kellen? This last turns out to be most important, as Kellen learns long-forgotten truths about his society, with the aid of Parfax and a creature his own people believe to be a poisonous demon. All that Kellen believes about his world—and his own family—is called into question, but as old loyalties fall down around his ears, new ones emerge. Will those alliances be strong enough to guide Kellen into the man he can become without magic?

An intriguing system of magic, wry humor, and a twisting plot make for an entertaining series debut.

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Behrendt and Ruotola (It's Just a F***ing Date: Some Sort of Book About Dating, 2013, etc.) are back, this time with a playful and useful self-help guide to help readers through the newlywed stage of “wedded bliss.”

Candid, conversational, and occasionally profane, the book is packed with short, often hilarious nuggets culled from personal experience. “My marriage to Amiira has been beautiful, but it has—at times—downright sucked ass,” writes Behrendt early on. The brutal honesty builds from there, as the authors seek to warn new couples that “historical resentments and patterns that can demolish a marriage usually start out as something seemingly unimportant.” This includes financial differences, plans for children, family traditions, sex, and even the marriage proposal. “The story of my proposal is so agonizing, writes Behrendt, “that it sits in my gut like a hibernating bear that awakens every time I’m asked” about it. Instead of using a ring, he proposed in a chintzy beach-house bedroom with a Christmas ornament of a male angel with “a comically big nose holding out a gold heart.” Ruotola: “Finally, I confessed to Greg that I was embarrassed to tell anyone that I was engaged because the first thing anyone wants to see is THE RING.” Fortunately, the couple recovered. Behrendt proposed again, but “alas,” he writes, “the bad proposal isn’t a thing I’ll ever get to take back.” While the advice is occasionally repetitive of obvious details—yes, planning a wedding is stressful—the narrative’s cautionary tale format works thanks to the self-deprecating approach. Formatted in short chapters of real marriage examples, listicles, Q-and-As, and checklists, the overarching message is that, just like creating a meaningful proposal, a long and happy union is built on “an exceptional set up….We repeat what we don’t repair, so if you want to have a suck free marriage it requires working through the hiccups and hurt to rid yourself of their stain.”

Sandwiching hard truths between hilarious anecdotes makes for an entertaining alternative to couples therapy.

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In our current political and cultural landscape, truth and fact have become the ignored and unloved siblings of belief and bias.

Pulitzer Prize–winning critic Kakutani (The Poet at the Piano: Portraits of Writers, Filmmakers, Playwrights and Other Artists at Work, 1988), who until recently was the chief book reviewer for the New York Times­—already two black marks against her in the populist playbook: She reads, and she worked for the Times—offers a dark analysis of the rise of Donald Trump and the fall of any concern for facts. Firmly assertive and seriously argued (there is little humor here, but given the subject, few will blame the author), her text is also full of allusions to and quotations from writers and others, including George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, Richard Hofstadter, William Butler Yeats, David Foster Wallace, and Ayn Rand. One short paragraph includes references to The Great Gatsby, Fight Club, Michael Houellbecq’s “willfully repellent novels,” No Country for Old Men, and the HBO series True Detective. Through it all, Kakutani’s strong presence sometimes disappears in a tangled wood of allusion and quotation. Still, she sees—and ably describes—with a depressing clarity the dangers of our brave new world. The author charts the decline of reason, the culture wars, the appeals of Trump and his “dog-whistle racism” (she is relentless in her attacks on the president), the language of dictators, the skills of Russian internet trolls, the dangers of the digital age, the blather about “fake news,” and, ultimately, the dire threat all of this poses for the democracy we profess to cherish. Kakutani also reminds us—as if we need reminding—that the German Nazi and Soviet Communist governments were hideous. Her final note: “without truth, democracy is hobbled.”

A stark sermon to the choir that urges each member to sing—loudly and ceaselessly.

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Paterson’s laziest lawyer is dragged back into the courtroom for a 17th time in his most reluctant role yet: as defender of his wife’s ex-boyfriend.

The police arrest Dave Kramer for the best of all possible reasons: He confesses to killing Kenny Zimmer. Two years earlier, well after he’d broken up with Laurie Collins, Kramer, an ex-cop–turned–private eye, had beaten up Zimmer, who admitted to assaulting the 15-year-old daughter of Kramer’s client but had laughed off Kramer’s attempts to find evidence against him. The police declined to press charges; Kramer lost his license; and bad blood continued until the day Kramer says Zimmer asked him to meet at a rest stop to discuss their ongoing issues, invited him inside the truck he arrived in, and pulled a knife on him, provoking Kramer to shoot him in self-defense. Unfortunately for Kramer, the police can find no trace of either a knife or the third party Kramer insists must have removed it from the truck. Fortunately for Kramer, dog-loving attorney Andy Carpenter (Collared, 2017, etc.) has already spent several hours at the scene because he agreed to take in the 61 rescue dogs Zimmer was transporting north in the truck. Will Andy oblige Laurie by agreeing to defend the former boyfriend who dumped her? If you know the answer to that question, you won’t be very mystified by the murder either, especially since Rosenfelt obligingly keeps cutting away to a series of dark vignettes showing a quartet of rogue government operatives plotting something big and nefarious in New Jersey’s heartland that’s somehow connected to the mass exodus of rescued dogs.

Rosenfelt, like Dick Francis, keeps coming up with inventive ways to ensnare his hero in cases involving animals. But this time, the mystery, fueled by his persistent fondness for implausible government intrigue, is thin, and the hero, presumably because he’s defending his beloved wife’s ex, is less funny than usual.

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Corporate coaching can be fatal.

The wheels of corporate culture turn slowly. So it takes nearly a decade for HR executive and sometime sleuth Chuck Restic to phase out his Los Angeles company's involvement with the questionable consulting firm Power of One, a grandiose enterprise with a tenacious and charismatic leader but only two full-time employees. When Chuck visits the luxe home of Power’s head, Julie St. Jean, he’s surprised to find instead her business partner, Rebecca, who turns out, to his surprise, to be living with her. And that’s not the biggest surprise he gets. Inside Julie’s beautifully appointed “Dojo,” he and Rebecca discover the corpse of Lois Hearns, a freelance Power contractor. Two LA police detectives question and release Chuck and Rebecca. When Chuck meets with Rebecca a few days later, however, the news that Julie’s gone missing leads him to team up, however uneasily, with Rebecca, who’s as anxious to find her partner as he is. Her abandoned Bentley has been found at Union Station. Chuck’s questions cause Rebecca to realize how little she knows about Julie. The discovery of another body, that of a man named Fitch whom both Chuck and Rebecca claim not to know, leads to more mutual distrust even as it hints at a more dangerous killer. The pieces of the puzzle begin to come together with the revelation that Lois Hearns was a lawyer who brokered a prospective sale of Power of One. Even so, more victims will be claimed before Chuck can put it all together.

The subtly arch first-person narrative gives the third series installment from Phillips (The Perpetual Summer, 2018, etc.) a smooth noir vibe, and the additional wrinkle of an unreliable sidekick adds delicious tension to a plot that unfolds with a satisfying series of twists.

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