Full of fury and feeling, sure to interest fans of crime novels, thrillers and alternate futures.

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TOTAL SECESSION

Connell (Lay Saints, 2012) offers a tough but touching futuristic thriller.

At an unspecified point in America’s future, Grant and Litz are released from a federal prison in Florida on the wave of a nationwide secession from the Union. Grant, in jail for a robbery that caused a murder, wants to get home to his wife, Darling, and their children in New York. Litz, locked up for arson, has “a tendency for revenge.” The two begin a perilous car journey, where they encounter a variety of characters, each with his or her own back story and unique struggle as the nation breaks apart. In New York, Darling’s brothers, Val and Wishful, load up a car with the family of the boy Grant murdered and hit the road to kill Grant before he can set eyes on Darling again. The book moves slowly, like the ex-con’s journey, but never grows dull, and pieces of Grant’s past are peeled back as his story unfolds into a complicated climax. In tough, stylized prose, the characters shine with depth, heart and humor in noteworthy abundance. Grant and Litz are powerfully likable protagonists with a complex, caring relationship that grows and changes as difficulties set them further from their goals. Secession, the backdrop of the novel, seems to function mostly to provide obstacles; earlier and greater orientation to the time period and the national circumstances might make the world more comprehensible. Shorter, more clearly outlined chapters would improve the book’s structure, and a few mild sci-fi elements are left unexplained, although it’s not terribly distracting. The characters’ moving kindness and clever turns of phrase—“The traffic on I-95 North was like a stubborn child” ; “Ever met a condom you didn’t break?”—are sure to keep readers going despite the occasional bout of confusion.

Full of fury and feeling, sure to interest fans of crime novels, thrillers and alternate futures.

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2012

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 390

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2012

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Despite this, Walkley’s beefy prose and rousing action sequences deliver a thriller to satisfy any adrenaline addict.

NO REMORSE

Walkley pits CIA agents against a maniacal Saudi prince intent on starting World War III in this debut thriller.

Delta Force operative Lee McCloud, aka Mac, finds himself in Mexico, trying to rescue two teenage girls kidnapped by a drug cartel. But things go from bad to worse when the villains don’t play by the rules. Framed for two murders he didn’t commit, Mac has two options: go to prison or go to work for a CIA black-op group run by the devious Wisebaum, who hacks into terrorists’ bank accounts and confiscates millions of dollars. However, there’s more going on than meets the eye; Saudi Prince Khalid is in possession of nuclear canisters, with which he hopes to alter world history. Khalid also dabbles in trafficking young women, and harvesting and selling human organs. When Wisebaum’s black-op team targets Khalid’s father, the action becomes even more intense. With so many interweaving subplots—kidnapped girls, Israeli undercover agents, nuclear weapons and a secret underwater hideout—it could be easy to lose track of what’s going on. But the author’s deft handling of the material ensures that doesn’t occur; subplots are introduced at the appropriate junctures and, by story’s end, all are accounted for and neatly concluded. Mac is portrayed as a rough and ready action-hero, yet his vulnerabilities will evoke empathy in readers. He finds a love interest in Tally, a hacker whose personality is just quirky enough to complement his own. All Walkley’s primary characters are fleshed out and realistic, with the exception of Wisebaum—a malicious, double-dealing, back-stabber of the worst ilk; the reader is left wondering about Wisebaum’s motivations behind such blatant treachery.

Despite this, Walkley’s beefy prose and rousing action sequences deliver a thriller to satisfy any adrenaline addict.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0980806601

Page Count: 412

Publisher: Marq Books

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2012

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With so many minor questions left unanswered, Carlson’s captivating novel proves to be more about the journey than the...

OUT OF THE SHADOWS

Tragedy turns into triumph in Carlson’s debut novel about a young woman who regains her self-confidence after multiple losses and years of dejection.

Before readers meet 28-year-old Jamie Shire, she has already hit rock bottom. Jobless, she drinks away her days on her best friend’s couch as she wallows in loneliness. Among Jamie’s troubles: Her mother died when she was a child, the only man she ever loved wouldn’t reciprocate, her unborn daughter died, and she continuously feels rejected by her father and brother. After a chance encounter with a wealthy woman at a coffee shop, Jamie accepts a live-in job researching philanthropic causes at Fallow Springs Estate. Reaching out to the house staff and eventually working with Darfur refugees afford Jamie some valuable context for her own pain; she’s able to gain confidence as she learns to stop fearing rejection and start pursuing her dreams. Throughout the novel, the author skillfully creates mood. In the beginning, when Jamie borders on depression, her emotional touchiness and oversensitivity will create an uneasy feeling in readers. But as Jamie slowly regains confidence, readers will also feel increasingly optimistic. Alongside the main character’s emotional struggle is the struggle faced by Darfur refugees, although this plotline doesn’t advance too far; yet details from Jamie’s trip to the refugee camp in Chad—the types of beer served at the aid workers’ bar or a depiction of a young refugee sitting blank-faced and tied to a pole because he might run away—effectively transport readers to faraway places. Jamie’s story will interest readers, but, with a weak ending, the story leaves many unanswered questions. Who is Jamie’s wealthy employer? Does Jamie’s work in Chad help anyone but herself? And what of the conflict Jamie feels between herself and the refugees, between the haves and the have-nots?

With so many minor questions left unanswered, Carlson’s captivating novel proves to be more about the journey than the destination.

Pub Date: April 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-0984991808

Page Count: 389

Publisher: First Snow Publishing House

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2012

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