Huger is an appealing narrator, but his story of finding himself is only moderately interesting, and the tacked-on thriller...

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DEAD LOW TIDE

In Lott’s follow-up to his coming-of-age/murder mystery The Hunt Club (1998, etc.), Huger Dillard, now a grown man but not exactly mature, confronts another murder 10 years later.

Huger, 27, has never quite begun his life since the trauma of killing a man at 17. He dropped out of college and has no real career. He now lives with his newly rich mother and father “Unc” in the exclusive golfing community Landgrave outside Charleston and pines for his lost love, African-American Tabitha, now getting her post-doc at Stanford. Approaching the golf course by boat late one night—Unc likes to practice when no one is around—Unc and Huger find a woman’s body floating in the marsh. Not only do the police show up, but also some intimidating naval officers from the U.S. Naval Weapons Station across the water. They were watching Unc and Huger in their boat through night goggles like the ones Unc won playing poker against base Commander Prendergast during a weekly game hosted by the father of Tabitha’s current beau. After finding the body, Huger comes home to find Prendergast alone with his mother and creepily solicitous. Meanwhile there’s another body found the same night, a man in the trunk of his car. Are the two deaths connected? Huger wants to figure out what is going on, but mostly he wants to get Unc to his weekly poker game where Unc intends to get those military-property goggles back to Prendergast—or does he? Up until a point, the novel leans toward the slightly hangdog humor of Huger’s slacker life, but suddenly in a rush of plot background and forced dialogue comes a terrorism-centered plot full of traitors and stereotypically nasty Muslims in sleeper cells.

Huger is an appealing narrator, but his story of finding himself is only moderately interesting, and the tacked-on thriller is cartoonish.

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4000-6375-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2011

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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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