Gretchen requires heavily engineered suspension of disbelief, but there are numerous thrills to be had and, underneath the...

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SWEETHEART

The seductive force of the murderess who tortured and maimed him continues to complicate the workaday life of a hard-used policeman in Portland, Ore.

The weird relationship between police detective Archie Sheridan and serial killer Gretchen Lowell, established in Cain’s 2007 Heartsick, has not been weakened by Gretchen’s imprisonment. Even as he carries out his forensic duties, and much to the detriment of his embattled marriage, Archie keeps his meetings with gorgeous but gruesome Gretchen. (Before she went to the Big House, Gretchen reached into Archie’s thorax and plucked out his spleen.) The visits with Gretchen ostensibly have to do with the need to pry from her the full list of her scores of victims, but if that weren’t on the to-do list, Archie would probably find some other excuse to drop in on the woman the papers call the Beauty Killer. He certainly doesn’t need the distraction. Bodies are continuing to turn up in the underbrush in a downtown city park, and a beloved senator has just plunged to his death from a Willamette River Bridge alongside a nosy journalist. The late reporter’s blue-haired newspaper colleague Susan Ward has taken copious notes on all the corpses. She was about to break the long-hidden story of the senator’s rape of a 14-year-old girl just before the accident, but now her editors have stepped on the report. Susan’s not about to give up pushing her way into Archie’s investigation. Then all hell breaks loose when Gretchen escapes. Archie knows his enchantress has engineered her jailbreak in order to get her hands back on the man she loves and loves to disembowel. Susan sticks with the story even as everything goes up in flames in one of those impressive Pacific Northwest forest fires.

Gretchen requires heavily engineered suspension of disbelief, but there are numerous thrills to be had and, underneath the Grand Guignol, there’s a perfectly normal detective story.

Pub Date: Sept. 2, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36847-0

Page Count: 330

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2008

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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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