Despite a slow start, this tale eventually succeeds with its scientific intrigue and decisively high stakes.



Pearson (The Marinated Nottingham and Other Abuses of the Language, 2016) offers a sci-fi thriller about a virus that threatens humanity.

Stacy Romani spent a good deal of her youth at her family’s chemical factory. It was there that she displayed a keen ability for scientific research. She grew up in a tightknit Roma family, and their wealth and distrust of outsiders allowed Stacy to pursue a career in science without any distractions. She would one day become an “elite of biochemistry,” although she could hardly anticipate some of the challenges that she would eventually face. One of her fellow elites is a man named Aatos Pires, who, much like Stacy, stood out as a child due to his advanced intelligence and, also like Stacy, doesn’t always have the best social skills. The two had once met years ago, as children; when they meet again as adults, it’s during a time in which a powerful virus is spreading through the population. As a woman working at the Centers for Disease Control describes it, the virus “doesn’t inhibit the immune system. It eats it.” To make matters more troubling, the virus was concocted by Aatos’ colleague in order to forward the goal of the “peaceful extirpation of the human species.” It turns out that there are lots of people around who want to put an end to all human life. And although the reader knows that Aatos is not to blame, the authorities still find him suspicious. Although the premise sounds simple enough, the narrative takes a while to get to the heart of the matter. Stacy’s and Aatos’ backstories are lengthy and not quite as thrilling as an illness that could annihilate everyone on the planet. Although it’s revealed that Stacy once discovered a virus as a youngster, thanks to an electron microscope, a fierce commitment to the scientific method, and a can-do attitude, both she and Aatos play better as dedicated adults than they do as precocious children. Other characters include journalist Joshua Grimm, who has his share of insights, such as his disdain for broadcasters who seek comments from people on the street (“Who seriously thought random civilians had anything meaningful to contribute?”), but his mission to report only slows the progress of more pressing narrative material. Although this virus-threatening-civilization story loses focus at times, it’s imaginative and full of action at its best. The story is at its most endearing when it explores hard science, as when Stacy and Aatos investigate “the viral RNA and its protector protein.” These portions give the reader a glance at how real investigators might tackle such a thorny problem—even if they didn’t already have a track record of tackling such difficulties from a young age. Pearson also makes sure to throw in plenty of flying bullets along the way, and he’s continually shifting the quirky plot into places that are both surprising and fantastical.

Despite a slow start, this tale eventually succeeds with its scientific intrigue and decisively high stakes.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: -

Publisher: Fiery Seas Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.


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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A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed...

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Trying his final case at 85, celebrated criminal defense lawyer Sandy Stern defends a Nobel-winning doctor and longtime friend whose cancer wonder drug saved Stern's life but subsequently led to the deaths of others.

Federal prosecutors are charging the eminent doctor, Kiril Pafko, with murder, fraud, and insider trading. An Argentine émigré like Stern, Pafko is no angel. His counselor is certain he sold stock in the company that produced the drug, g-Livia, before users' deaths were reported. The 78-year-old Nobelist is a serial adulterer whose former and current lovers have strong ties to the case. Working for one final time alongside his daughter and proficient legal partner, Marta, who has announced she will close the firm and retire along with her father following the case, Stern must deal not only with "senior moments" before Chief Judge Sonya "Sonny" Klonsky, but also his physical frailty. While taking a deep dive into the ups and downs of a complicated big-time trial, Turow (Testimony, 2017, etc.) crafts a love letter to his profession through his elegiac appreciation of Stern, who has appeared in all his Kindle County novels. The grandly mannered attorney (his favorite response is "Just so") has dedicated himself to the law at great personal cost. But had he not spent so much of his life inside courtrooms, "He never would have known himself." With its bland prosecutors, frequent focus on technical details like "double-blind clinical trials," and lack of real surprises, the novel likely will disappoint some fans of legal thrillers. But this smoothly efficient book gains timely depth through its discussion of thorny moral issues raised by a drug that can extend a cancer sufferer's life expectancy at the risk of suddenly ending it.

A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed Innocent.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4813-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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