Engaging characters, one already dead, highlight this loving tribute to the classic detective story.

Haunting Investigation

A CHESTERTON HOLT MYSTERY

In Yarbro’s (Sustenance: A Saint-Germain Novel, 2014, etc.) mystery/thriller, a journalist in 1924 investigates a possible murder with help from the ghost who’s haunting her.

With the death of accountant Madison Moncrief, Philadelphia Clarion reporter Poppy Thornton may have found her way from the society page to the front page. Sure, it looks like Madison hanged himself, but Poppy knows it was murder because Chesterton Holte, the ghost of a man who died eight years ago, told her. Poppy’s investigation leads to her connecting two additional murders: the alleged suicide of James Poindexter, who worked at the same firm as Moncrief, and the irrefutable homicide of antiques dealer Percy Knott. But when Poppy gets too close to the truth, she may need more than just a helping hand from Holte. There’s not much mystery in Yarbro’s novel; Poppy uncovers some shadiness among potential suspects but doesn’t make much headway, and Holte learns little from the ghosts of the murder vics, who can’t even remember their killer(s). Yarbro, however, delivers two intriguing lead characters. Holte, for one, has chosen to haunt Poppy because he blames himself for her father’s murder, which happened mere hours before Holte’s own during the Great War (about which the narrative doesn’t offer too many details). Holte is largely a traditional ghost—“semi-visible” in front of Poppy and prone to flickering lights—who often inadvertently scares the journalist with his sudden appearances. Poppy, for her part, is delightfully curious (befitting her profession of choice) yet hilariously oblivious to Inspector Loring’s blatant flirting, even if Holte is quick to point it out. Nevertheless, Yarbro’s greatest triumph is the old-school prose. Her novel reads as if it were genuinely authored in the 1920s: “ ’phone” is repeatedly written as such, as it would be if the shorthand were still around, and Poppy’s go-to exclamation is “Ye gods!” The final act is decidedly more intense—Poppy may become someone’s target—but the ending unfortunately lacks resolution, so readers hoping for a nice wrap-up to the mystery will likely be disappointed.

Engaging characters, one already dead, highlight this loving tribute to the classic detective story.

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2015

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Cleveland Writers Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2015

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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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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

IT ENDS WITH US

Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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