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The Baltimore Sun

The History Book

By Humphrey Hawksley

Warner Books / 330 pages / $24.95

Too many international thrillers suffer from a lack of believability - or at least, a lack of visceral knowledge of the many worlds and fields covered. BBC World Affairs correspondent Hawksley certainly has the latter qualification covered, having been to dozens of countries and war zones as part of his reporting duties, and if The History Book could use a healthy dose of plausibility, it doesn't skimp on entertainment value. Kat Polinski, at the ripe old age of 24, already has enough computer hacking skills this side of another famous Kathleen in crime fiction - Carol O'Connell's Mallory - and has skirted enough trouble to trade jail time for a stint in an unnamed elite counterterrorism unit specializing in new technology. Tech toys will come in handy and occasionally prove lifesaving when Kat is told of the murder of her older sister Suzy, whose death may be at the hands of a covert Russian-based organization desperate for power and well-versed in torture and megalomania. Hawksley's sharp plotting takes Kat from D.C. to London to Kazakhstan and develops her into quite the fighting heroine, which makes The History Book an enjoyable slice of thriller pie.

Sarah Weinman reviews crime fiction every month for The Sun. Visit her at

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