Sweeney-Baird’s dystopian debut novel, begun in 2018, is unsettlingly prescient.


Beginning in 2025, a Great Male Plague spreads around the world.

The novels opens in London on a deceptively breezy note as Catherine, a social anthropologist with a happy marriage and adorable 3-year-old son, avoids fertility treatment because she’s ambivalent about having a second child. Big mistake. Five days later, on “Day 1,” a man dies for no clear reason in a Glasgow hospital. After a second man dies there two days later and more fall ill, attending physician Amanda, a wife and mother of two sons herself, senses approaching disaster. She contacts recently independent Scotland's public health officials, who dismiss her concerns. By Day 5, “the Plague,” though still limited to Scotland, “is all anybody can talk about” in London. And so the Plague spreads, day by numbered day within eight sections designating stages from OUTBREAK to PANIC to ADAPTATION to REMEMBRANCE. Although women may be carriers, only males (of all ages) get sick, almost always fatally. Survivors, i.e., women, experience what survivors today have been experiencing—loss, isolation, fear, guilt, physical damage, financial crises, and, occasionally, good fortune. Catherine and Amanda, who lose the men and boys in their lives early, remain central as they reconstruct their lives. But British author Sweeney-Baird swings her focus among an ever widening swathe of characters—wealthy, working class, urban, rural, White, Black, Asian, straight, LGBTQ+, British, American, Canadian, Filipino—as if afraid to leave any social subgroup out. Shallow character development is inevitable. But a captivating standout is the portrayal of brilliant gay Canadian scientist Lisa, a villainous, much-hated savior who uses the Plague as her steppingstone to wealth and fame. Meanwhile, the loss of most of the world’s male population and the ways governments react to the Plague raise complicated ethical issues. This may be just the novel you want to read right now—or the last thing you'd want to pick up.

Sweeney-Baird’s dystopian debut novel, begun in 2018, is unsettlingly prescient.

Pub Date: April 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-32813-2

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 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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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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A smart summer escape.


Silva’s latest Gabriel Allon novel is a bit of a throwback—in the best possible way.

One-time assassin and legendary spymaster Gabriel Allon has finally retired. After saying farewell to his friends and colleagues in Israel, he moves with his wife, Chiara, and their two young children to a piano nobile overlooking Venice’s Grand Canal. His plan is to return to the workshop where he learned to restore paintings as an employee—but only after he spends several weeks recovering from the bullet wound that left him dead for several minutes in The Cellist (2021). Of course, no one expects Gabriel to entirely withdraw from the field, and, sure enough, a call from his friend and occasional asset Julian Isherwood sends him racing around the globe on the trail of art forgers who are willing to kill to protect their extremely lucrative enterprise. Silva provides plenty of thrills and, as usual, offers a glimpse into the lifestyles of the outrageously wealthy. In the early books in this series, it was Gabriel’s work as an art restorer that set him apart from other action heroes, and his return to that world is the most rewarding part of this installment. It is true that, at this point in his storied career, Gabriel has become a nearly mythic figure. And Silva is counting on a lot of love—and willing suspension of disbelief—when Gabriel whips up four old master canvases that fool the world’s leading art experts as a lure for the syndicate selling fake paintings. That said, as Silva explains in an author’s note, the art market is rife with secrecy, subterfuge, and wishful thinking, in no small part because it is almost entirely unregulated. And, if anyone can crank out a Titian, a Tintoretto, a Gentileschi, and a Veronese in a matter of days, it’s Gabriel Allon. The author’s longtime fans may breathe a sigh of relief that this entry is relatively free of politics and the pandemic is nowhere in sight.

A smart summer escape.

Pub Date: July 19, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-283485-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Harper

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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