If Siegel can only make his hero a tad less obnoxious, he will have a good potential series on his hands.

SUZY'S CASE

The plot twists keep coming in this legal thriller by Siegel, a first-time author who calls on his own experience as a personal injury and malpractice lawyer.

Hero and narrator Tug Wyler is a hard-boiled Manhattan lawyer who specializes in personal injury but usually winds up with robbers and murderers as clients. As a favor to an associate, he takes on the not-very-promising case of Suzy, a young sickle cell patient who suffered a brain-damaging stroke during hospitalization. Nothing initially points to malpractice, but Wyler’s instincts tell him that a key witness is lying. His search for the truth is accompanied by a few false leads, three separate attempts on his life and a potential love affair with Suzy’s mother. Instead of a climactic courtroom scene, Siegel delivers a final set of revelations after the case has been settled. Only in the final pages does Wyler discover all the key characters’ backgrounds and piece together what really happened in the hospital and why he survived those three murder attempts. The book’s fast-moving plot makes it a quick, enjoyable read, with some colorful characters, including a mysterious neighborhood avenger. The author’s background gives a ring of truth to the plot twists and litigation scenes, and he avoids going off on legal tangents unless the plot requires them. He only trips up by trying too hard to establish Wyler as a rogue and a ladies’ man: Some of his office behavior seems to verge on sexual harassment, and he’s prone to dropping the phrase, “At least I admit it” every few dozen pages. (On the other hand, a more subtle running joke—Wyler keeps meeting people who share their names with famous television characters—works fine.)

If Siegel can only make his hero a tad less obnoxious, he will have a good potential series on his hands.

Pub Date: July 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4516-5878-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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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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Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless...

SPLIT SECOND

Two defrocked Secret Service Agents investigate the assassination of one presidential candidate and the kidnapping of another.

Baldacci (The Christmas Train, 2002, etc.) sets out with two plot strands. The first begins when something distracts Secret Service Agent Sean King and during that “split second,” presidential candidate Clyde Ritter is shot dead. King takes out the killer, but that’s not enough to save his reputation with the Secret Service. He retires and goes on to do often tedious but nonetheless always lucrative work (much like a legal thriller such as this) at a law practice. Plot two begins eight years later when another Secret Service Agent, Michelle Maxwell, lets presidential candidate John Bruno out of her sight for a few minutes at a wake for one of his close associates. He goes missing. Now Maxwell, too, gets in dutch with the SS. Though separated by time, the cases are similar and leave several questions unanswered. What distracted King at the rally? Bruno had claimed his friend’s widow called him to the funeral home. The widow (one of the few characters here to have any life) says she never called Bruno. Who set him up? Who did a chambermaid at Ritter’s hotel blackmail? And who is the man in the Buick shadowing King’s and Maxwell’s every move? King is a handsome, rich divorce, Maxwell an attractive marathon runner. Will they join forces and find each other kind of, well, appealing? But of course. The two former agents traverse the countryside, spinning endless hypotheses before the onset, at last, of a jerrybuilt conclusion that begs credibility and offers few surprises.

Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless concoction.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2003

ISBN: 0-446-53089-1

Page Count: 406

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2003

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