Every time the reader thinks this story’s turning right, it takes a hard left. But it never wanders in circles, and it does...


A tense, broiling, 21st-century Western with a crafty premise and a gruesomely high body count.

Imagine HBO's Westworld, only without androids and taking place far closer to our own era, and you basically have the setting of this bleak-yet-antic prairie-noir novel by Sternbergh (Near Enemy, 2015, etc.). Somewhere in the most isolated reaches of the Texas Panhandle is the tiny, hardscrabble town of Caesura (“rhymes with tempura”), the population of which consists entirely of transplanted criminals who have not only been given new identities, but have had the memories of whatever they did to be relocated totally erased. It’s part of an experimental program in behavior modification, and the community’s got some pretty peculiar rules, one being that the residents’ new names are compounds of movie stars and U.S. vice presidents. Examples include Spiro Mitchum, Greta Fillmore, Buster Ford, and Hubert Gable, the last of whom is the second resident within a week to have been found shot dead. Gable was killed in an apparent bar fight while the first death was an apparent suicide. Because these are the first such deaths in the town’s eight-year history, it’s become a priority puzzler for sheriff Calvin Cooper (yep, another alias) and his deputies, one of whom, a bright young woman named Dawes, thinks she knows where to look for a connection. Meanwhile, the parched stillness of what many of its residents call the Blinds is soon shattered by more than just errant gunfire; black vans carrying people with suits, dark glasses, and firearms appear, and the new arrivals start asking questions of their own that may have something to do with Calvin’s good friend Fran Adams and her young son, Isaac. Two things are clear: nobody in this story is who they’re supposed to be, and their secrets carry a high cost.

Every time the reader thinks this story’s turning right, it takes a hard left. But it never wanders in circles, and it does move like a championship stock car toward a climax that, however shattering, implies there’s more to come.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-266134-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 13

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller


Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.


Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

Did you like this book?