A strong mystery that clearly shows some secrets, like a few bodies, can’t stay buried.

AIN'T NOTHIN' PERSONAL (AN EMMETT HARDY MYSTERY)

A small-town Oklahoma cop in the mid-1960s investigates a supposed decades-old triple homicide—killings that may implicate a member of his own family.

In Kelsey’s third installment of a mystery series, Chief Emmett Hardy, on leave from the police force following a breakdown and a bout with alcoholism, goes to the state penitentiary at the request of dying prisoner Rufus Kenworthy. Kenworthy wants to “get right with the Lord” by confessing something big to Hardy. The crime involves the mixed-race Younger family. Townspeople believe Clarence Younger and his wife and son fled years ago after their home was torched by racists, but Kenworthy claims that after the fire, the three were murdered and their bodies dumped in the town lake. Kenworthy implies Hardy’s widowed father, who now deals with memory issues, was involved. Or could Kenworthy have confused Hardy’s dad with his father’s older brother, Ernest, who now works for mobsters in New York City? After asking local police and other townspeople to fill in the blanks in Kenworthy’s story, Hardy temporarily lands in the trunk of a car. Along with a dangerous professional life, he has a complicated personal one. Hardy’s lover, Karen Dean, who wears nightwear as “sexy as a repurposed feed bag,” works as a local police officer while his estranged, free-spirited wife, Sophie, lives in New York. She’s a journalist who sidelines playing drums in Greenwich Village jazz clubs. While in New York to find his uncle, Hardy looks up Sophie—and she hits all the right notes. The change of scenery to the big city opens up the story. The book—a smooth melding of mystery and historical fiction—details racial and policing issues that remain to this day. Kelsey deftly captures small-town life of over 50 years ago, and he doesn’t shy away from the most brutal actions of the Ku Klux Klan in the ’30s. The author succinctly recaps the previous volume in the series, which resulted in Hardy’s leave from the force. Other pluses that are woven throughout the engaging tale are references to music—a jazz fan, Hardy plays the horn—and to the hero’s beloved yellow Lab, Dizzy.

A strong mystery that clearly shows some secrets, like a few bodies, can’t stay buried.

Pub Date: May 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-68-433702-6

Page Count: 276

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2021

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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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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

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THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME

When a devoted husband and father disappears, his wife and daughter set out to find him.

Hannah Hall is deeply in love with her husband of one year, Owen Michaels. She’s also determined to win over his 16-year-old daughter, Bailey, who has made it very clear that she’s not thrilled with her new stepmother. Despite the drama, the family is mostly a happy one. They live in a lovely houseboat in Sausalito; Hannah is a woodturner whose handmade furniture brings in high-dollar clientele; and Owen works for The Shop, a successful tech firm. Their lives are shattered, however, when Hannah receives a note saying “Protect her” and can’t reach Owen by phone. Then there’s the bag full of cash Bailey finds in her school locker and the shocking news that The Shop’s CEO has been taken into custody. Hannah learns that the FBI has been investigating the firm for about a year regarding some hot new software they took to market before it was fully functional, falsifying their financial statements. Hannah refuses to believe her husband is involved in the fraud, and a U.S. marshal assigned to the case claims Owen isn’t a suspect. Hannah doesn’t know whom to trust, though, and she and Bailey resolve to root out the clues that might lead to Owen. They must also learn to trust one another. Hannah’s narrative alternates past and present, detailing her early days with Owen alongside her current hunt for him, and author Dave throws in a touch of danger and a few surprises. But what really drives the story is the evolving nature of Hannah and Bailey’s relationship, which is by turns poignant and frustrating but always realistic.

Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7134-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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