cover image The Midnight Bell

The Midnight Bell

Jack Higgins. Putnam, $28 (320p) ISBN 978-0-399-18530-4

Bestseller Higgins’s routine 22nd Sean Dillon thriller (after 2014’s Rain on the Dead) pits the former IRA assassin against the new leader of al-Qaeda, who calls himself simply the Master. Dillon took out the previous Master, and his successor is plotting his revenge. Dillon’s allies include Vietnam vet Blake Johnson, who runs the Basement, the American president’s “personal security department”; and Dillon’s cousin Hannah Flynn, who, although just 19, “had grown up in an IRA family and knew how to handle a gun.” Hannah’s skills come in handy when she and another woman are attacked, but, as is typical of the genre, violent events that would unsettle a real person have minimal emotional impact. Characters act in reckless ways that will distance some readers from any sense of reality. Others may not care for the unsophisticated politics. For example, a supposedly savvy former president asserts that the U.S. thought at one point “that the deaths of Saddam, Gadaffi, and bin Laden would cure the ills of the Middle East.” Agent: Ed Victor, Ed Victor Literary Agency (U.K.). (Dec.)