A poised protagonist leads this serpentine but engaging legal tale.

Almost Mortal

A Virginia public defender aims to protect a priest by stopping a confessed serial killer from committing another murder in this thriller.

Sam Young is a lawyer accustomed to working off the books, especially given the amount of money that people willingly pay him. But helping Father Andrada, who was a friend to his mother, is a little more personal. Church employee Camille Paradisi tells Sam that a confessor has admitted to the priest that he’s the Rosslyn Ripper, responsible for three recent, brutal murders. Camille doesn’t know the killer’s identity but wants to find a way to keep Andrada from landing in legal trouble or breaking his vow. At the same time, someone’s sending pages of a journal to the church, possibly the killer, though there are no specifics on the Ripper murders. The journal’s author claims to have an ability akin to mind reading, much like seeing a person’s inner “framework.” Sam, as it happens, can likewise feel or probe other people’s minds. He tries to connect the manuscript and a chalice at the church—with a bit of covert DNA testing—to the Ripper case but can’t prevent a fourth murder. His apparent psychic abilities, however, may link him to the journal as well as a secret past. Despite the title hinting at something supernatural, the novel becomes more of a legal thriller. There are countless scenes, for example, of Sam with various clients, including physician Fred Torres, who owes money to a loan shark, and Nguyen Jones, who’s exonerated of child-porn charges. Jones aids Sam with his computer skills. The perpetually composed Sam carries the story with chic and humbleness. Leibig (The Black Rabbit, 2014, etc.) treats Sam’s extraordinary talent in the same way, the attorney using it both sparingly and inconspicuously. Sam rightly suspects that Camille’s not telling him everything, leading to a final act that’s virtually overflowing with revelations and twists. The author keeps all of it from spinning out of control, though a few questions go unanswered, like why Camille felt the need to mislead Sam with at least one significant piece of information. Still, the narrative could be a stand-alone or the start of a series, hopefully fronted by Sam.

A poised protagonist leads this serpentine but engaging legal tale.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Koehler Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2016

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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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Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

ALL YOUR PERFECTS

Named for an imperfectly worded fortune cookie, Hoover's (It Ends with Us, 2016, etc.) latest compares a woman’s relationship with her husband before and after she finds out she’s infertile.

Quinn meets her future husband, Graham, in front of her soon-to-be-ex-fiance’s apartment, where Graham is about to confront him for having an affair with his girlfriend. A few years later, they are happily married but struggling to conceive. The “then and now” format—with alternating chapters moving back and forth in time—allows a hopeful romance to blossom within a dark but relatable dilemma. Back then, Quinn’s bad breakup leads her to the love of her life. In the now, she’s exhausted a laundry list of fertility options, from IVF treatments to adoption, and the silver lining is harder to find. Quinn’s bad relationship with her wealthy mother also prevents her from asking for more money to throw at the problem. But just when Quinn’s narrative starts to sound like she’s writing a long Facebook rant about her struggles, she reveals the larger issue: Ever since she and Graham have been trying to have a baby, intimacy has become a chore, and she doesn’t know how to tell him. Instead, she hopes the contents of a mystery box she’s kept since their wedding day will help her decide their fate. With a few well-timed silences, Hoover turns the fairly common problem of infertility into the more universal problem of poor communication. Graham and Quinn may or may not become parents, but if they don’t talk about their feelings, they won’t remain a couple, either.

Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7159-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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