Spiritual empowerment more so than weapons firepower (though there’s that too) is the aim of this farfetched...

CHRYSALIS

A social worker is catapulted into a whirlwind of romance and danger when she meets the love of her life, superstar actor and part-time CIA operative Sam Donovan.

Author Lewis’ globe-trotting romantic action-adventure may remind some of Danielle Steele with a dose of Helen MacInnes. Beautiful Alexandra Maitland flees a love-starved, dysfunctional childhood in Cleveland and tries to put her private pain to good use as an anti-gang counselor in Los Angeles. Still, she suffers secret anxieties and crises of confidence. When her job gets cut, thanks to office politics, Alex is sent to Hawaii on an enforced vacation, where she must remain due to the threat of gang violence against her back in Los Angeles. There, she finds the neighbor of her vacation villa to be none other than Hollywood superstar Sam Donovan, who ministers to Alex intimately when she suffers life-threatening sunstroke, falling for her in the process. But two near-death experiences are not enough for this heroine. Alex’s missionary brother is seized by North Koreans and, thanks to the stalwart Sam’s government ties—he is a freelance CIA undercover agent, by the way—the couple goes to the locked-down dictatorship on a combined getting-married and rescue mission. There’s torture (gruesome indeed), submarine rides, movie-set jealousy and a further lingering threat from Max, a rogue ex-KGB operative turned rogue ex-CIA operative (whew), and his network of assassins. Fast-paced prose compacts this into far less than the doorstop of a saga it sounds, but one still wishes Lewis had taken more time to color in the outlines. The Hawaiian scenes are best for flavor, character-building and ambiance, but other jet-set locales pass with little or no adjectives wasted on them. Sinister and in-the-headlines North Korea is so utterly nondescript that the place of the lovers’ gruelingly hellish ordeal may just as well have been Syria, Pakistan, Ruritania or the Klingon Homeworld (or Cleveland again), and desultory villain Max is also pretty flat. An emphasis on the heroine’s inner growth and lambent New-Age spirituality (Alex seems to recollect herself and Sam as oft-tragic soul mates from many thwarted past lives) distinguishes this from genre competitors that put the accent on bling, celebrity name-dropping and designer brand labels.

Spiritual empowerment more so than weapons firepower (though there’s that too) is the aim of this farfetched girl-meets-boy-who-is-CIA-and-Hollywood-hero-all-in-one yarn.

Pub Date: July 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1469925011

Page Count: 286

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 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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  • 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

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Top-drawer crime fiction. The authors are tough on the hero, but the hero is tough.

THE RED BOOK

Patterson and Ellis put their characters through hell in this hard-edged second installment of their Black Book series after The Black Book (2017).

A young girl is one of four people gunned down in a “very, very bad” K-Town drive-by shooting in Chicago. Police are under intense political pressure to solve it, so Detective Billy Harney is assigned to the Special Operations Section to put the brakes on the gang violence on the West Side. His new partner is Detective Carla Griffin, whom colleagues describe as “sober as an undertaker” and “as fun as a case of hemorrhoids.” And she looks like the last thing he needs, a pill popper. (But is she?) Department muckety-mucks want Harney to fail, and Griffin is supposed to spy on him. The poor guy already has a hell of a backstory: His daughter died and his wife committed suicide (or did she?) four years earlier, he’s been shot in the head, charged with murder (and exonerated), and helped put his own father in prison. (Nothing like a tormented hero!) Now the deaths still haunt him while he and Griffin begin to suspect they’re not looking at a simple turf war starring the Imperial Gangster Nation. Meanwhile, the captain in Internal Affairs is deep in the pocket of some bad guys who run an international human trafficking ring, and he loathes Harney. The protagonist is lucky to have Patti, his sister and fellow detective, as his one reliable friend who lets him know he’s being set up. The authors do masterful work creating flawed characters to root for or against, and they certainly pile up the troubles for Billy Harney. Abundant nasty twists will hold readers’ rapt attention in this dark, violent, and fast-moving thriller.

Top-drawer crime fiction. The authors are tough on the hero, but the hero is tough.

Pub Date: March 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-49940-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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