Precise and unequivocally gripping; an edge-of-your-seat ride from beginning to end.

READ REVIEW

RAMPAGE

In Brenham’s (Cornered, 2014, etc.) latest thriller, cops in Austin, Texas, face off against a former convict on a vengeance-driven, murderous crime spree.

The murder of a video arcade owner isn’t a simple robbery gone wrong. Mad Dog, fresh out of prison and with the help of thuggish cohorts Rastaman and Runt, is offing witnesses responsible for his old cellmate Snake’s incarceration. Detective Jason Scarsdale and new partner Tatum Harper link the murders thanks to Mad Dog’s snakelike symbols carved on the victims’ faces. As Scarsdale inches closer to identifying the criminals, Mad Dog’s paranoia intensifies, as he suspects a snitch in the mix. Meanwhile, the detective and his 7-year-old daughter, Shannon, are caught in the line of fire when someone takes shots at their home. But there may be more than one person who wants Scarsdale dead. Despite the author’s choice to expose the villains’ perspectives, Brenham still injects some mystery into the plot. The real names of Mad Dog’s henchmen, for example, are initially unknown, so readers aren’t sure when Scarsdale and Harper are questioning a guilty party. There’s likewise a baddie included who may have ties to one of Scarsdale’s previous cases and a preceding book, Price of Justice (2013). The story relies mostly on a solid amount of suspense; the cops are fairly certain who the killers are before the halfway point, and their lives may be in danger when Scarsdale gets to be too much of a “real pain in the ass” for Mad Dog. Outside the investigation, Brenham keeps things lively and constantly moving with surprisingly strong drama. Possible stirrings between the partners, for one, are impossible to ignore: Scarsdale’s long-distance girlfriend, Dani, is apparently angry over his boss’s demand that he stay on the case and forgo plans for a Germany visit, while Harper’s jealous ex-hubby, Preston, simply assumes that the two partners are having sex. Even Mad Dog gets in on the melodramatic action when he’s worried that girlfriend Maggie has run off and either Rastaman or Runt is hiding her somewhere. Brenham rounds out the novel with a car chase, a kidnapping or two, and more than one murder that has less to do with retribution for Snake and more with an increasingly unhinged Mad Dog.

Precise and unequivocally gripping; an edge-of-your-seat ride from beginning to end.

Pub Date: July 4, 2015

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Black Opal Books

Review Posted Online: April 23, 2015

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

DEVOLUTION

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

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

THEN SHE WAS GONE

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

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