An exhilarating, globe-trekking espionage tale that delivers robust characters.

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ALL THE BIG ONES ARE DEAD

In this thriller, Interpol seeks to shut down an organization that peddles illegal animal parts and funds terrorists.

Putting a stop to illegal game hunting is becoming decidedly more difficult for Interpol. International terrorist and smuggling groups finance the illicit hunts and in turn receive significant profits from the distribution of ivory and rhino horns. But the unknown organization “running the show” is utilizing encrypted communications that Interpol hasn’t been able to crack. Officer Michael Bishop, “on loan from the CIA,” suggests simply tracking poachers from a kill site, which is what he ultimately does in Cameroon. Indeed, he finds poachers, but his search for distributors takes him first to a warehouse in Marseille and later to New York. Interpol is already in Manhattan to locate an asset, John Logan, a Columbia University professor, mathematician, and encryption expert. He may be able to assist Interpol in gaining access to the group’s communications. At the same time, the organization is targeting Logan’s encryption algorithm. Its plan entails coercing people to help, including Columbia alum Julius Coppola, who will clear his gambling debts if he agrees to steal information. But the group also ties off loose ends by employing David Trask, formerly in the U.S. Army and CIA, who is prone to violence and has a past with Bishop. Bishop and others, such as Interpol Inspector Diane Linders, want intelligence on the head of the organization. All they need to do is track down and protect certain individuals before Trask gets to them. Though this novel features plenty of action, the story’s strength lies with Gray (Dark Nights 2, 2019, etc.) and debut author Carson’s skillfully restrained approach. For example, Marc Dominican, who works for the organization, seems personable when he initially encounters Coppola. But his sinister purpose is quickly clear when he addresses Coppola’s debt, specifying various amounts. Similarly, Trask’s attacks are chilling in their suddenness; by the time characters register that something is happening, someone is already dead. On the other end of the moral spectrum, Bishop is an admirable but formidable hero. His interrogation of a particular suspect is unnerving due to anticipation, as readers have seen Bishop question someone earlier. Meticulous descriptions of the interrogation room aptly illustrate this expectation: “There is a video camera in each of the four corners of the room, mounted exactly two meters high, usually invisible to a detainee because the cameras are in deep shadows and aimed at the pool of light thrown by ceiling mounted spots that illuminate only the table and chairs.” Regardless, Bishop is physically capable when it proves necessary, as when he coldly dispatches a handful of poachers or engages in fisticuffs. There’s a fair amount of characters in the story, and the authors assiduously detail each one. This gives deaths—and near deaths—serious dramatic impact, like the loss of an agent that unquestionably affects Bishop. Likewise, two players’ understated romance throughout is more than enough for the predictable but endearing payoff.

An exhilarating, globe-trekking espionage tale that delivers robust characters.

Pub Date: April 20, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-926433-15-8

Page Count: 364

Publisher: Sunbow Press

Review Posted Online: June 13, 2019

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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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One of those rare thrillers whose answers are even more scarifying than its mysteries.

AFTER ALL I'VE DONE

A middle-aged woman sidelined by a horrific accident finds even sharper pains waiting on the other side of her recuperation in this expert nightmare by Hardy, familiar to many readers as Megan Hart, author of All the Secrets We Keep (2017), etc.

Five months ago, while she was on her way to the hospital with an ailing gallbladder, Diana Sparrow’s car hit a deer on a rural Pennsylvania road. When she awoke, she was minus her gallbladder, two working collarbones (and therefore two functioning arms), and her memory. During a recovery that would’ve been impossible without the constant ministrations of Harriett Richmond, the mother-in-law who’s the real reason Diana married her husband, Jonathan, Diana’s discovered that Jonathan has been cheating on her with her childhood friend Valerie Delagatti. Divorce is out of the question: Diana’s grown used to the pampered lifestyle the prenup she’d signed would snatch away from her. Every day is filled with torments. She slips and falls in a pool of wine on her kitchen floor she’s sure she didn’t spill herself. At the emergency room, her credit card and debit card are declined. She feels that she hates oppressively solicitous Harriett but has no idea why. Her sessions with her psychiatrist fail to heal her rage at her adoptive mother, an addict who abandoned her then returned only to disappear again and die an ugly death. Even worse, her attempts to recover her lost memory lead to an excruciatingly paced series of revelations. Val says Diana asked her to seduce Jonathan. Diana realizes that Cole, a fellow student in her watercolor class, isn’t the stranger she’d thought he was. Where can this maze of deceptions possibly end?

One of those rare thrillers whose answers are even more scarifying than its mysteries.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64385-470-0

Page Count: 310

Publisher: Crooked Lane

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 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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