The solid plot is nearly outshone by its sterling leads, the father–daughter duo that refuses to compromise.

THE MAN WHO RODE THE TIGER

In Sailor’s thriller, a father seeks to liberate his daughter after she’s accused and tried for capital crimes in China.

Retired police captain David Kettering learns that his daughter, Sarah, a correspondent for Global News Network, has been charged with espionage in the assassination attempt on the general secretary in Beijing. That information is a mere courtesy: The United States is denying any association with Sarah, whom China believes to be an American agent. Members of a “democracy club” are also arrested, but the conspiracy runs even deeper—China’s president is poisoned, an attempt on his life that he believes was instigated by the general secretary. David, Sarah and others, including GNN comrades, are bugged and shadowed by agents of the Ministry of State Security, while David learns just how far he’ll go to save his daughter. Sailor (The Second Son, 1979) dives right into the story, as David travels from the States to Beijing in little narrative time. There’s little attempt to establish the relationship between father and daughter before the plot begins; the imprisoned Sarah is introduced in shackles. But their solid connection is well developed through their brief encounters and David’s unfaltering belief in her innocence—“My daughter is not now, nor has she ever been, a spy,” he boldly proclaims in court. Sailor’s writing style is unassuming, as he spends less time painting the scenery than relaying information, which comes in streams but suppresses enough details to maintain a flow of curiosity. Hoping for help in getting his daughter back to America, David spends a large portion of the novel tracking down the ambassador in the U.S., although he typically finds himself immersed in kinetic gunfights. Sarah, despite her mistreatment in prison, proves just as resolute and sturdy a character as her father. The story is further enriched by a clear struggle between communism and democracy (a political demonstration has a bloody conclusion), but Sarah’s trial is the most rousing part, particularly when watching her lawyer jump hurdles in the courtroom.

The solid plot is nearly outshone by its sterling leads, the father–daughter duo that refuses to compromise.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2011

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Charles Sailor

Review Posted Online: March 15, 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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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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Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

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WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING

A wild child’s isolated, dirt-poor upbringing in a Southern coastal wilderness fails to shield her from heartbreak or an accusation of murder.

“The Marsh Girl,” “swamp trash”—Catherine “Kya” Clark is a figure of mystery and prejudice in the remote North Carolina coastal community of Barkley Cove in the 1950s and '60s. Abandoned by a mother no longer able to endure her drunken husband’s beatings and then by her four siblings, Kya grows up in the careless, sometimes-savage company of her father, who eventually disappears, too. Alone, virtually or actually, from age 6, Kya learns both to be self-sufficient and to find solace and company in her fertile natural surroundings. Owens (Secrets of the Savanna, 2006, etc.), the accomplished co-author of several nonfiction books on wildlife, is at her best reflecting Kya’s fascination with the birds, insects, dappled light, and shifting tides of the marshes. The girl’s collections of shells and feathers, her communion with the gulls, her exploration of the wetlands are evoked in lyrical phrasing which only occasionally tips into excess. But as the child turns teenager and is befriended by local boy Tate Walker, who teaches her to read, the novel settles into a less magical, more predictable pattern. Interspersed with Kya’s coming-of-age is the 1969 murder investigation arising from the discovery of a man’s body in the marsh. The victim is Chase Andrews, “star quarterback and town hot shot,” who was once Kya’s lover. In the eyes of a pair of semicomic local police officers, Kya will eventually become the chief suspect and must stand trial. By now the novel’s weaknesses have become apparent: the monochromatic characterization (good boy Tate, bad boy Chase) and implausibilities (Kya evolves into a polymath—a published writer, artist, and poet), yet the closing twist is perhaps its most memorable oddity.

Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1909-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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