Conventional action-adventure fare.

SANDSTORM

No slouch with bloodletting, Lee’s debut action-adventure novel scatters bodies across Maryland, Italy, Russia and Israel before a quarter of the narrative has expired.

CIA station chief Erica Janway was linked to a sexual harassment scandal and brought to Langley. Assigned as a desk jockey until things are resolved, she's shot through the heart by a man in a wet suit. Simultaneously, her protégé, Nora Mossa, is attacked in Rome. Nora knows there’s a conspiracy afoot, and she goes underground and flees to the Virgin Islands. There, she pleads for help from her former lover and ex-CIA agent, Alex Kove. Doubtless Lee hopes to hang a thriller series on Kove, his intellectual, multilingual superagent recruited to the Company after a sterling NFL career. While cinematic jump-cuts common to action thrillers and blockbuster films move the story, the dialogue is neither literate nor layered. That said, Lee can render a good line, "The pair fell in unison, as if synchronized dying were a sporting event." Dwelling little on settings other than the mention of landmarks, Lee sends the narrative flying through D.C., Brussels, Kuwait, Crete, Georgia and into Iran. However, Lee’s here-and-there-and-everywhere settings and double handfuls of characters sometimes overwhelm action with information. Grab a cheat sheet to track the plethora of players: Alex’s cohort, Duncan Anderson, enters the narrative with no history or biography other than, "One black man reporting for duty;" then there’s the head of the National Clandestine Service; an ambitious and corrupt U.S. senator; his son, an incompetent CIA agent; a German magnate whose sideline is clandestine arms; and an amoral billionaire intent on altering world history. The plot hinges on nukes for Iran, with U.S. and Israeli schemers conspiring to trick the ayatollahs for geopolitical gain or personal profit. Kove’s nemesis from his agency days, Dmitri Nevsky, a former Russian secret agent, also shows up.

Conventional action-adventure fare.

Pub Date: June 4, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-7653-3494-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Forge

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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

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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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The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once...

DELIVER US FROM EVIL

In Baldacci’s 19th (True Blue, 2009, etc.), boy and girl monster-hunters meet cute.

Evan Waller, aka Fadir Kuchin, aka “the Butcher of Kiev,” aka “the Ukrainian psychopath,” is one of those deep-dyed villains a certain kind of fiction can’t do without. Serving with distinction as part of the Soviet Union’s KGB, he joyfully and indiscriminately killed thousands. Now, many years later, posing as a successful businessman, he’s vacationing in Provence where, unbeknownst to him, two separate clandestine operations are being mounted by people who do not regard him with favor. Reggie Campion—28 and gorgeous—spearheads the first, an ad hoc group of monster-hunting vigilantes. Studly, tall Shaw (no first name supplied) is point guard for a rival team, shadowy enough to leave the matter of its origin ambiguous. While their respective teams reconnoiter and jockey for position, studly boy meets gorgeous girl. Monster-hunters are famous for having trust issues, but clearly these are drawn to each other in the time-honored Hollywood fashion. Shaw saves Reggie’s life. She returns the favor. The attraction deepens and heats up to the point where team-members on both sides grow unsettled by the loss of focus, singularly inopportune since, as monsters go, Waller rises to the second coming of Caligula—ample testimony furnished by a six-page, unsparingly detailed torture scene. In the end, the stalkers strike, bullets fly, screams curdle the blood, love has its innings and a monster does what a monster’s got to do.

The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once again show the stuff it’s made of.

Pub Date: April 20, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-446-56408-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Avon A/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2010

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