Plenty to like in Harrison’s specialty mix of immensely engaging characters in immensely extreme situations, including...

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THE HAVANA ROOM

Manly middle-age obsessions, including sex, restaurants, real estate, drugs, health, death, sports, fatherhood, and the law, combine agreeably in another intelligent thriller from the author of the 2000 Afterburn.

The very pleasant, very expensive Upper East Side world of decent but far from priggish lawyer Bill Wyeth disappears in a gulp when his son’s ten-year-old sleepover visitor’s lips touch a few molecules of peanut oil to which he’s violently allergic and he dies. Hounded, sued, and cuckolded by the late boy’s father, Wyeth loses his family and job, skidding with breathtaking speed into domestic and legal oblivion. His reemergence begins with the discovery of an old-line steakhouse, its cuisine so ancienne it’s cool, where he begins to take his meals. Daily. The restaurant is managed by the enormously competent and sexy Allison Sparks. Part of Allison’s allure is her well-guarded access to the Havana Room, a downstairs space featuring a mysterious show to which one must be invited. When Wyeth is at last admitted, his viewing pleasure is immediately complicated by an introduction to Jay Rainey, one of the men in Allison’s life, a man who has immediate need for a lawyer. Rainey is angling to swap his North Fork Long Island farm, land of huge potential, for an undistinguished Manhattan office building, and the contract must be signed by midnight. Smart enough to know trouble when he sees it, keen enough on exercising his skills to ignore the trouble, and subject to Rainey’s charisma, Wyeth works the deal and enters Rainey’s troubled, sad world. The very day of the deal an elderly black employee is found frozen to death at the controls of a backhoe on Rainey’s property. The victim’s understandably distressed family, whose numbers include a sadistic hip-hop club owner, seek recompense. The farm’s powerfully rich new owner seeks assurance that the backhoe was not burying any sins. Wyeth seeks answers, some of which are plied from Long Island’s grandest real-estate dame.

Plenty to like in Harrison’s specialty mix of immensely engaging characters in immensely extreme situations, including ingestion of psychotropic fish.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-374-29986-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2003

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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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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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