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

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

more