An enjoyable read but hardly the stuff of legend.

EXIT STRATEGY

A fast-paced, hemisphere-spanning debut thriller about the downside of starting a new life.

At a conference, Dr. Stephanie Parrish eulogizes her late husband, Jordan Parrish, a Harvard scientist and founder of medical technology company Genometry, who had “dreamed of a world without disease.” Stephanie was told that her husband had been having an affair and that he and his girlfriend died in an accident. She accepts that he’s gone, “dead and buried, mourned after a fashion.” But there was no affair; worried about his finances and his shaky marriage, Jordan had contacted Exit Strategy, which helps people disappear and start new lives for a fee. Meanwhile, a huge insurance payoff ensures that Stephanie and Genometry are financially much better off with his death. The folks at Exit Strategy take their mission seriously—they will kill Jordan and his family if he contacts anyone he knows. But Jordan doesn’t want this situation (he must not have read the fine print), so he desperately looks for a way out as he’s assigned the job of teaching English in Japan. Exit Strategy inserts a device they call “The Angel” into his hand to track his every movement, and when he carelessly “likes” a photo of Stephanie on Instagram, he fears his family will be killed. His escape attempt takes him to the Middle East and to the Chunnel, where he must fight his way to England. Meanwhile, Stephanie learns Jordan is alive, and she wants him back. Lots of blood flows, as does semen in a weird sex scene. Later, a needless oral-sex encounter is surprising given the participants. And there’s an especially grisly and gratuitous cat murder. It’s clear why Exit Strategy wants to maintain client confidentiality, but these dudes must have murder in their business plan. They won’t last long if they have to go to such trouble for every straying client. But the writing is generally good, with plenty of tension and over-the-top action as the protagonists struggle against heavy odds to reunite.

An enjoyable read but hardly the stuff of legend.

Pub Date: May 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-488-09538-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Hanover Square Press

Review Posted Online: March 24, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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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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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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