A precisely written, enthusiastic thriller that definitely hits its mark

A RELUCTANT ASSASSIN

First-time author Wilcox’s thriller follows a former Marine sniper who attempts to solve his financial misfortunes by offering his services as a hit man.

Honorably discharged, Sgt. Oscar Wylton comes home to find his estranged wife remarried; she’s also legally booted him from the company he helped create. Despite his degree and experience, Oscar’s job search is fruitless. So he opts to go into business for himself, utilizing his military training as a hired assassin. Oscar stealthily contacts a troubled woman who could use his assistance, and she accepts his proposal. A successful hit breeds a generous payoff—and a contract referral. Several scenes illustrate the sergeant’s experience in Afghanistan, covertly trekking across the terrain at night. These passages are wrought with anticipation—and shrewd foreshadowing for the assassinations. Parts of the novel feel like shorter stories—Oscar’s saving a young girl in Afghanistan or his mission eliminating Serbian snipers. But this only engenders further sympathy for Oscar, who’s burdened with guilt for killing innocents to avoid capture or detection. Some aspects of Oscar’s life are a little too convenient: His children are flawless; clients send payments with gushing letters and unsolicited bonuses; and his sexual trysts are too easy, including a memorable one with the assistant who is simply passing time while waiting to speak with an arms supplier. Suspense, however, is derived from exhilarating sequences involving hits that rarely go off without a hitch; one narrow escape ends with Oscar hiding in the ceiling of a public restroom for several days, only coming down for water, use of the facilities and a shave. Additional highlights include the roller-coaster relationship between Oscar and his ex-wife, whose messages range from courteous to expletive-laden, and the always-appreciated dry humor: his decision to not “argue” with a large handgun pointed in his direction and the receptionist who offers Oscar coffee, tea, “but definitely not her.”

A precisely written, enthusiastic thriller that definitely hits its mark

Pub Date: Dec. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1450257817

Page Count: 260

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Aug. 23, 2012

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A bloody and grotesque but ultimately entertaining and inspiring take on horror movies, trauma, and self-determination.

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THE FINAL GIRL SUPPORT GROUP

Serial killer survivors are forced to cooperate when they’re dragged screaming back into jeopardy.

You have to give it to Hendrix, author of The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires (2020), for tapping into his deep knowledge of horror films and fiction to find a new angle on the tropes of terror with every outing. In the same way Edgar Cantero lampooned Scooby Doo in Meddling Kids (2017), this scary unraveling aims straight for the sheer terrors the best slasher films create. Here, Hendrix has zeroed in on the so-called “final girl,” the sole survivor of a horrific massacre—you’re already thinking of Jamie Lee Curtis in the Halloween movies or Sigourney Weaver in Alien. This book is even more skin-crawling, as deeply paranoid Lynnette Tarkington (impaled on an antler trophy during her first unfortunate encounter years ago) reluctantly participates in group therapy sessions with Dr. Carol Elliot along with fellow survivors Marilyn Torres, who has buried her emotions in wealth; Dani Shipman, who might have killed the wrong person; Julia Campbell, whose encounter left her in a wheelchair; and Heather DeLuca, who is succumbing to addiction. Hendrix can be tongue-in-cheek (see Horrorstör, 2014) but is deadly serious here while still warping the conventions of the genre, including the fact that some of the survivors have participated in graphic horror flicks depicting their very real traumas. The book is creepy enough on its face, but Hendrix’s use of expedient narrative tools, including a laconic cowboy lawman, an overly eager journalist, and a host of archetypal serial killers, heightens the unease. After one member of this vigilant sisterhood is murdered and a series of oddly prescient attacks threaten the rest, Lynnette becomes increasingly suspicious that the attacks are originating way too close to their inner circle. “Does this ever end?” Lynnette asks. “Will there always be someone out there turning little boys into monsters? Will we always be final girls? Will there always be monsters killing us? How do we stop the snake from eating its own tail?”

A bloody and grotesque but ultimately entertaining and inspiring take on horror movies, trauma, and self-determination.

Pub Date: July 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-20123-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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An urgent, poignant, and terrifying thriller. More please.

WHEN SHE WAS GOOD

Forensic psychologist Cyrus Haven returns in Robotham’s gripping follow-up to Good Girl, Bad Girl (2019).

Cyrus has finally tracked down Sacha Hopewell, the London special constable who carried little Evie Cormac out of a house of horrors seven years ago, where a man was tortured and killed trying to protect her. The little girl, whose true identity remains a mystery, was dubbed Angel Face and made a ward of the court; eventually she was given the name Evie and moved to Langford Hall, a secure children’s home. Meanwhile, Sacha and her family were threatened, and she eventually fled London. Cyrus hopes Sacha can shed light on what really happened to Evie in the days following her rescue and offers to take Sacha to see Evie, but she declines. Cyrus is then called to the scene of retired police officer Hamish Whitmore’s suspected suicide, where he finds evidence that suggests Whitmore was murdered. Cyrus advises his old friend Detective Lenny Parvel to treat the death as a homicide. Cyrus soon finds out that Whitmore had been investigating a series of child murders attributed to recently deceased pedophile Eugene Green, and, shockingly, the last name on his list is Angel Face. Whitmore’s family also reveals that a man with pale blue eyes and a half-moon scar, claiming to be police, had already questioned them. That’s no police officer, and it’s not long before Cyrus, with Sacha’s help, is racing to find out Evie’s true identity in a bid to save her from a powerful group of people who want her silenced at any cost. Once again, Robotham delves into some very (very) dark territory, and the horror steadily mounts as Evie, who has a strange ability to tell when people are lying, finally reveals what really happened to her before her rescue. Cyrus and Evie, both trauma survivors, are quirky, complex, and endlessly fascinating creations, and Robotham’s meticulously crafted tale is propelled by their alternating first-person narratives. Readers will be putty in this supremely talented author’s capable hands.

An urgent, poignant, and terrifying thriller. More please.

Pub Date: July 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982103-63-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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