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by George Ernsberger
Posted 6/17/22

Aurora by David Koepp (Harper). The disaster that sets off this thriller doesn’t go away. The whole world is electrically and electronically just dead; think what would go not just dark, but …

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Aurora by David Koepp (Harper). The disaster that sets off this thriller doesn’t go away. The whole world is electrically and electronically just dead; think what would go not just dark, but inert, stop in its tracks, without electricity. It’s all owing to a solar flare that we saw coming but couldn’t get ourselves (and politicians and the media) together to prepare for. This writer gets us to believe in all of this pretty much at once, partly because we experience it with people we like, and others we don’t at all, but all of them very much alive on his pages. He has worked in movies and TV, and that shows in the pacing and invention, but also in that psychological . . . not depth, really, but clarity, bringing a lot of different people into the room with us.
Cold Fear by Brandon Webb and John David Mann (Bantam). Big action novel in an especially dramatic setting, by the author team of Steel Fear, of a year or so ago. That one took place on (and in) an aircraft carrier; this one, in the almost equally remote and self-contained island nation of Iceland. It’s a direct sequel, again featuring Finn, the ex-Navy Seal, and at least as engrossing, and thrilling, and finally satisfying. Finn is still in the grip of a partial amnesia, and still pursuing the truth about his own possible role in a massacre.
December ’41 by William Martin (Forge). The publisher compares this historical novel, appropriately enough for me to steal it, to The Day of the Jackal and The Eye of the Needle; dramatic fiction at the very edge of historical times and events. The event here, of course, is the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the epochal first weeks of World War II across America. Germany certainly did have espionage and sabotage operations in place in America; whether as extensive, or less or more extensive than the premise here is uncertain (to me, at least) but this book is realistic, not fantastic.
Last Call at the Nightingale (Minotaur). Historical setting, 1924, New York City, prohibition days; “the Nightingale” is a speakeasy and dance hall. A young woman barely getting by on seamstress work and living with her sister in a tenement apartment finds it welcoming. This is all deftly made real enough for us to believe we’ve been there; she flirts with women as much as with men, and she isn’t alone in that; you could almost say she’s flirting with the reader. But the fun is cut short when she happens on a corpse behind the club, and the police decide she’s a likely suspect. She is, we’ve already seen, a person of some spunk and brains, and she begins to investigate this crime on her own, if only to avoid the evident willingness of the cops to focus on her.

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