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Baldacci hits ‘Target’ with thriller Gross asks tough questions in new novel

‘The Target” (Grand Central Publishing), by David Baldacci
In David Baldacci’s latest thriller, “The Target,” master assassins Will Robie and his partner, Jessica Reel, are supposedly given a clean slate by the government on the condition that they take an assignment that is - in reality - a suicide mission. The president knows it could mean his impeachment if they are caught. Evan Tucker, the head of the CIA, doubts they can follow orders and would prefer to see them die before they take the assignment. He throws them into the Burner Box, a high-tech training facility that is notorious for breaking agents, both physically and mentally. Tucker tosses the absolute worst at them, and they soon discover that surviving the torture is the easy part of their mission.

While they are struggling to pass the ever-increasing brutal tests lobbed at them, a man in another part of the country awaits his fate on death row. However, he is dying from lung cancer, and he persuades his doctor to look up his daughter, who was placed in witness protection years earlier, so he can tell her goodbye. He has an ulterior motive, and while his doctor contemplates contacting the authorities, in another part of the world, a North Korean assassin receives a dangerous mission with world-changing ramifications.
Robie and Reel are complex characters, and anything they do is a pleasure to follow. However, the adventures are extremely short and somewhat disjointed from the rest of the story, making it appear that the missions were short stories that Baldacci shoved in with the rest of the story and characters. That aside, Baldacci knows how to get readers to turn the pages, and he’s in top form here.

“Everything to Lose” (William Morrow), by Andrew Gross
How far would you go to protect your loved ones? What if keeping your special needs child in an expensive, properly caring environment meant having to break the law? Would you do it? Author Andrew Gross forces readers to grapple with the extremes one must go through to survive in such a situation in his new novel, “Everything to Lose.” Hilary Cantor is divorced, and her deadbeat husband doesn’t pay his child support. Their son, Brandon, is autistic, and the school he attends is very expensive. Hilary becomes desperate after she loses her job. How will she pay for her child’s schooling?

She witnesses a car crash while driving home one afternoon. The car slides down a ravine. Hilary climbs and scratches her way to the car, where she discovers a dead man and a satchel filled with money. She tosses the bag into a bush and leaves. As time passes, Hilary cannot grasp the financial collapse that is about to hit her. She goes back to the site of the crash and finds the money. She begins to use just enough to pay her bills. What she doesn’t realize is that someone was expecting the money - and will do anything to find it. “Everything to Lose” will grab readers from the book’s opening pages.

“The Furies” (Thomas Dunne Books), by Mark Alpert
Mark Alpert, known for his science-driven thrillers, takes readers on an unexpected journey into dark fantasy with “The Furies.” Imagine a world that co-exists with our own but remains hidden to outsiders. Those who inhabit this realm appear as Amish to people living nearby, but they are beings with a rare genetic disorder. Hundreds of years ago, their abilities terrified others and they were deemed witches. Rather than face persecution, they hid themselves away.

In present day, John Rogers is drowning his sorrows at a bar after an unsuccessful day at a job fair when a beautiful woman walks in with two men. He strikes up a conversation and after a period of time, watches her companions leave. Since it’s late, he decides to make sure she gets home safely. They end up in a hotel room together. When they are about to become romantically involved, gunfire erupts in the hallway. The door to their room flies open and shots are fired. They flee to the roof where they meet more bullets. Ariel is hurt. When John offers to take her to a hospital, Ariel tells him about her hidden life.
Alpert has a knack for taking complex theories and making them relatable. This time, the science, while intriguing, takes a back seat to the story. John and Ariel are characters that readers will care about, and fans of Jim Butcher and other dark fantasy authors will enjoy “The Furies.”

“A Window on Eternity” (Simon & Schuster), by Edward O. Wilson Biologist Edward O. Wilson doesn’t spend a lot of time in his exploration of Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park on the American entrepreneur who sponsored its rebirth after a 14-year civil war. Instead, “A Window on Eternity” focuses on what is working among the animals in the park, and the result is a virtual nature walk through an African landscape. Gorongosa became a battleground during the 1978-1992 war, and then poachers nearly picked its ruins clean of large animals. Wilson visited the park in 2011 to investigate the progress of conservation efforts that have renewed the park’s vegetation and wildlife since 2004. According to Wilson, some of the elephants that survived the worst years in the park remember the war and remain easily spooked by the sight of humans and vehicles. He mourns for the park they lost - and the data it could have contained - but he finds hope for their rehabilitation in the work of insects that mostly go unnoticed by park visitors. Wilson specializes in ants, and his explanations about the importance of insect relationships and biodiversity in Gorongosa are charming and accessible - no jargon, just joy. (AP)

By Jeff Ayers


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