In her sympathetic if somewhat uneven debut, La Seur entices readers with impeccable prose imbued with a blend of romance,...

THE HOME PLACE

A busy Washington lawyer returns home to sort out the details of her sister’s shadowy life and suspicious death.

When Alma Terrebonne receives word that her younger sister has died, she flies back to her hometown of Billings, Montana, and ends up shouldering more responsibility than she anticipated. There are no easy explanations for what happened. Vicky left her 11-year-old daughter, Brittany, in the early hours of the morning, and her frozen body was found hours later. The police find some physical evidence suggesting it may have been murder. Alma’s investigation reaffirms what's known around town: Vicky was a drug user who hung out with lowlifes and owed money to everyone; her own dysfunctional family, from her older brother to the aunt and uncle who raised her following the deaths of her parents, wasn’t immune. She even approached her grandmother about signing over mining rights to the family’s homestead to a seedy land agent, a man who threatens Alma when confronted. A part of the family for generations, the home place was built by her great-grandfather and represents to Alma comfort and memories of simpler and happier times. After law enforcement officers remove a drug dealer and remnants of a meth lab from the premises without taking standard safety precautions, Alma—apparently unconcerned about possible toxic contaminants—moves in with her traumatized niece. She plans to stay only a few days before turning Brittany over to her aunt and uncle’s care and returning to her job in Washington, but she becomes increasingly aware that her niece’s well-being is in her hands. During the course of their stay, she reignites a friendship with her high school sweetheart, Chance, and rediscovers long-dormant emotions. She also learns the lengths people will go to safeguard themselves and others.

In her sympathetic if somewhat uneven debut, La Seur entices readers with impeccable prose imbued with a blend of romance, nostalgia and suspense. There are plenty of enjoyable red herrings and tarnished characters, but some of the details lack credibility.

Pub Date: July 29, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-232344-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2014

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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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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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