This thriller, though gripping to the end, is a victim of its own niceness.

SNAP

The three children of a murdered woman hide in plain sight.

Jack Bright, Bauer’s (The Beautiful Dead, 2017, etc.) plucky main character, is only 14, but he's the sole support of what’s left of his family. Three years ago, in 1998, Jack’s mother, Eileen, left him and his two younger sisters in their broken-down car while she went in search of a roadside telephone. Her body was found several days later, and the children’s father, after trying to cope, disappeared. Now, unbeknownst to social services and truancy officers, Jack and his sisters, Joy and Merry, still inhabit their clutter-bound family home. Jack and Merry maintain the exterior to put off authorities. Jack also maintains the family’s fragile economy by burglarizing homes, stealing only healthy food and occasionally napping in a victim’s bed. Thanks to the consistency of this M.O., the police call him the Goldilocks burglar, although they're not even close to identifying or nabbing him. The book's third-person perspective shifts among multiple characters, major and minor, but is always vividly real. Heavily pregnant Catherine, whose husband, Adam, is away on business, drives off an unseen home invader only to find an abalone-handled knife placed next to a scrawled note: “I could have killed you.” A never entirely credible reluctance stops her from calling the police or telling Adam. Marvel, a senior detective exiled to “darkest Somerset” after a fall from grace at his London post, disdains the hunt for Goldilocks as much as he longs for a homicide case. Reynolds, a vain but deeply insecure detective, visits his aging mother often at her new home but ignores her concerns about the three seemingly feral children next door. Perspectives and offhand clues converge as Marvel finds that a rash of small-town burglaries just might lead to a career-salvaging murder investigation and to the cold case of Eileen Bright. All of the characters, though flawed human beings in varying degrees, are likable, which gets in the way of creating a convincing villain.

This thriller, though gripping to the end, is a victim of its own niceness.

Pub Date: July 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-8021-2774-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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
  • 40

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

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