A mystery with a sharp protagonist whose appeal is matched by that of the characters surrounding him.

JACK OF HEARTS

A DETECTIVE JACK STRATTON NOVEL

Former cop Jack Stratton takes a case in his parents’ gated community in this installment of Greyson’s (And Then She Was Gone, 2016, etc.) mystery series.

Jack had planned to spend a few days with his father and mother, Ted and Laura Stratton, at their Florida home, where he planned to finally introduce them to his longtime girlfriend, Alice Campbell, in person. Unfortunately, Lady, Jack’s 120-pound king shepherd dog, becomes a last-minute traveling companion, as the proposed kennel they’d chosen turned out to be rather dismal. But there are rules at the Strattons’ gated community, Orange Blossom Cove, including a requirement that dogs must always be leashed. This isn’t always easy to do with Lady, which peeves the Strattons’ neighbors. Jack’s vacation seems to be over before it starts when Laura, along with her book-club pals, insists that he help stop the Orange Blossom Cove Bandit, who’s responsible for a string of recent thefts. After the bandit attempts to burgle the Stratton house, Jack agrees to look into it, if only not to disappoint his mother. Alice, meanwhile, wants to make a good impression on her boyfriend’s parents, so she takes part in a ladies’-night stakeout with Laura and her local friends. But while questioning community residents, Jack uncovers evidence of a breaking and entering at the home of a recently deceased man whose lethal heart attack may have actually been murder. Soon other dead bodies turn up, and the desperate killer’s next target may be someone close to Jack. Greyson’s mystery is relatively lighthearted thanks to a motley bunch of diverting characters. Laura’s friends are particularly amusing, as when they concoct a scheme to catch the bandit red-handed that entails doing something that’s not entirely legal. (Jack later refers to the women as “the Golden Girl Commando Squad.”) Lady, too, is a fully developed character; the colossal canine is generally used as comic relief (as when it seemingly blames Jack for its time in a cargo hold), but she’s also fiercely protective. There are occasional comic antics, as when Jack learns the hard way that Ted’s story about a wild gator tromping through the community is true. But there are plenty of serious subplots, as well, including a side mystery involving Alice’s late parents. Despite the often humorous tone, though, one villain, whose identity is revealed early, is quite menacing. The real puzzle for readers is who this baddie’s collaborator is; also mysterious is the true importance of the stolen items. The mystery’s solution employs an intriguing mix of strategies: Jack professionally sets a trap for the bandit, but the book club’s relatively amateurish investigation actually produces some fruit. The narrative is predominantly taken up with light banter, but Jack is shown to be a keen observer, as well: at one point, for instance, he peruses an “immaculate and orderly” room, specifically noting the arrangement of objects and the lack of pictures on the wall.

A mystery with a sharp protagonist whose appeal is matched by that of the characters surrounding him.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2017

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 260

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 1, 2017

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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...

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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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