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WAYWARD

IMAX-scale bleeding-edge techno-horror from a writer with a freshly sharpened scalpel and time on his hands.

The world as we know it ended in Wanderers, Wendig’s 2019 bestseller. Now what?

A sequel to a pandemic novel written during an actual pandemic sounds pretty intense, and this one doesn’t disappoint, heightened by its author’s deft narrative skills, killer cliffhangers, and a not inconsiderable amount of bloodletting. To recap: A plague called White Mask decimated humanity, with a relative handful saved by a powerful AI called Black Swan that herded this hypnotized flock to Ouray, Colorado. Among the survivors are Benji Ray, a scientist formerly with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Shana Stewart, who is pregnant and the reluctant custodian of the evolving AI (via nanobots, natch); Sheriff Marcy Reyes; and pastor Matthew Bird. In Middle America, President Ed Creel, a murdering, bigoted, bullying Trump clone, raises his own army of scumbags to fight what remains of the culture wars. When Black Swan kidnaps Shana’s child, she and Benji set off on another cross-country quest to find a way to save him. On their way to CDC headquarters, they pick up hilariously foulmouthed rock god Pete Corley, back from delivering Willie Nelson’s guitar to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. This novel is an overflowing font of treasures peppered with more than a few pointed barbs for any Christofacists or Nazis who might have wandered in by accident. Where Wanderers was about flight in the face of menace, this is an old-fashioned quest with a small band of noble heroes trying to save the world while a would-be tyrant gathers his forces. All those big beats, not least a cataclysmic showdown in Atlanta, are tempered by the book’s more intimate struggles, from Shana’s primal instinct to recover her boy to the grief Pete buries beneath levity to Matthew Bird’s near-constant grapple with guilt. It’s a lot to take in, but Pete’s ribald, bombastic humor as well as funny interstitials and epigraphs temper the horror within.

IMAX-scale bleeding-edge techno-horror from a writer with a freshly sharpened scalpel and time on his hands.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-15877-7

Page Count: 816

Publisher: Del Rey

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2022

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DAUGHTER OF MINE

Small-town claustrophobia and intimacies alike propel this twist-filled psychological thriller.

The loss of her police officer father and the discovery of an abandoned car in a local lake raise chilling questions regarding a young woman’s family history.

When Hazel Sharp returns to her hometown of Mirror Lake, North Carolina, for her father’s memorial, she and the other townspeople are confronted by a challenging double whammy: As they’re grieving the loss of beloved longtime police officer Detective Perry Holt, a disturbing sight appears in the lake, whose waterline is receding because of an ongoing drought—an old, unidentifiable car, which has likely been lurking there for years. Hazel temporarily leaves her Charlotte-based building-renovation business in the capable hands of her partners and reconnects with her brothers, Caden and Gage; her Uncle Roy; her old fling and neighbor, Nico; and her schoolfriend, Jamie, now a mother and married to Caden. Tiny, relentless suspicions rise to the metaphorical surface along with that waterlogged vehicle: There have been a slew of minor break-ins; two people go missing; and then, a second abandoned car is discovered. The novel digs deeper into Hazel’s family history—her father was a widow when he married Hazel’s mother, who later left the family, absconding with money and jewels—and Miranda, a consummate professional when it comes to exposing the small community tensions that naturally arise when people live in close proximity for generations, exposes revelation after twisty revelation: “Everything mattered disproportionately in a small town. Your success, but also your failure. Everyone knows might as well have been our town motto.”

Small-town claustrophobia and intimacies alike propel this twist-filled psychological thriller.

Pub Date: April 9, 2024

ISBN: 9781668010440

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Marysue Rucci Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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THEN SHE WAS GONE

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

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. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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