by Colin Harrison ‧ RELEASE DATE: Jan. 1, 2000
The handy cliché alleging that a thriller is so good it transcends its genre has rarely been truer than in the case of this breathtakingly suspenseful meditation on the interwoven ambiguities of life and death. Two terrific set-pieces open the story. The first, a Prologue set in Vietnam in 1972, recounts in nerve-shattering detail the capture, imprisonment, and eventual rescue of fighter pilot Charlie Ravich. Then, we observe Charlie 27 years later in Hong Kong, now the wealthy CEO of a telecommunications company, as he turns his “insider’s” knowledge of the death of an influential Chinese businessman into a multimillion-dollar profit. At that point, the focus shifts to Christina Welles, a college-educated beauty just released from prison, where she served four years for her part in a truck-theft ring masterminded by mafioso Tony Verducci. Shifting with masterly ease among his protagonists, Harrison (Manhattan Nocturne, 1996, etc.) explores Charlie’s desperation to perpetuate his name (his only son dead, his only daughter infertile) as he seeks a surrogate mother; Christina’s wary flight from the avenging Verducci (who, she intuits, suspects she’s double-crossed him, and has arranged her release); and the search for Christina that’s being undertaken by her former lover (and criminal partner), bodybuilder Rick Bocca—who aims to get to her before Tony does. In crisp scenes rendered in trim declarative sentences, Harrison traces his characters— separate paths while simultaneously analyzing their individual obsessions and guilts: Charlie’s belief that the obliteration of his name may be punishment for the death he rained on the Vietnamese; Rick’s compromised Catholic sense of sin; and Christina’s weary surrender to her own “hardness” and amorality. The story’s climax (which includes several graphic torture scenes) and devastating finale brilliantly underscore Harrison’s commanding central irony: that in the midst of life we are in the presence of death. A practically perfect literary thriller with a bitter lingering “afterburn” indeed. (First printing of 100,000; author tour)
Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2000
Page Count: 416
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1999
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by Max Brooks ‧ RELEASE DATE: June 16, 2020
A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.
Awards & Accolades
New York Times Bestseller
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
Page Count: 304
Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine
Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020
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BOOK TO SCREEN
by Kathy Reichs ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 17, 2020
Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.
Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.
A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.
Pub Date: March 17, 2020
Page Count: 352
Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020
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