Resonant characters propel this consistently gripping terrorist tale.

SERPENTS UNDERFOOT

In this debut thriller, a Navy SEAL tries to uncover a terrorist plot.

Rahman Atta has a deep-seated animosity toward Americans, blaming them for murdering his father and uncle, both Islamic radicals. He’s cooking up a plan that initially entails getting a president in his pocket. With a United States election coming up, Atta offers to fund Josephine Warren-Brookstone’s campaign. The presidential hopeful has been doing well but is almost out of money and accepts Atta’s contributions. The candidate does not know her benefactor’s true identity. The alarming second part of Atta’s plan involves deadly weapons. When the CIA finds a possible link between Warren-Brookstone and terrorists, Atta sends assassin Fatima Hadhari to kill a few agents. But one of those potential targets is analyst William Peterson, whose childhood friend is martial arts–trained Navy SEAL JD Cordell. The SEAL’s involvement ultimately puts him and his parents, Curtis and Mai, in danger. Will JD discover the details of Atta’s scheme before it’s too late? Gilbert’s action-oriented tale is dense with characters and personal histories, resulting in narrative stretches without the formidable JD. But the myriad subplots and backstories are often enthralling. The book’s opening chapters take place during the Vietnam War and feature JD’s parents. In Vietnam, Mai aids a lost and injured American soldier, Lt. Curtis Cordell, and subsequently guides him to a military outpost. All of the story’s characters are well developed, producing genuine shocks when certain individuals die. The author writes in an unadorned prose that keeps the plot moving at a steady beat. There’s quite a bit of violence, and despite the tale not lingering on bloodier moments, a few stand out in their sheer ferocity. Although readers will likely anticipate an ending action scene—featuring a confrontation between two key players—the finale is still exhilarating.

Resonant characters propel this consistently gripping terrorist tale. (acknowledgements, author’s note, author bio)

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-692-96131-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2020

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A unique story of transcendent love.

LAYLA

An aimless young musician meets the girl of his dreams only to have his newfound happiness threatened by several inexplicable—and possibly supernatural—events.

The story opens as Leeds Gabriel meets with a detective while his girlfriend, Layla, is restrained in a room one flight above them. Through the interview, readers learn that Leeds was wasting both his time and his musical talent playing backup for a small-town wedding troupe called Garrett’s Band when he spied Layla dancing her heart out to their mediocre music at a wedding. When Leeds approaches Layla, their connection is both instant and intense. A blissful courtship follows, but then Leeds makes the mistake of posting a picture of himself with Layla on social media. A former girlfriend–turned-stalker wastes no time in finding and attacking Layla. Layla spends months recovering in a hospital, and it seems the girl Leeds fell for might be forever changed. Gone is her special spark, her quirkiness, and the connection that had entranced Leeds months before. In a last-ditch effort to save their relationship, he brings Layla back to the bed-and-breakfast where they first met. When they get there, though, Leeds meets Willow, another guest, and finds himself drawn to her in spite of himself. As events unfold, it becomes clear that Willow will either be the key to saving Leeds’ relationship with Layla or the catalyst that finally extinguishes the last shreds of their epic romance. Told entirely from Leeds’ point of view, the author’s first foray into paranormal romance does not disappoint. Peppered with elements of mystery, psychological thriller, and contemporary romance, the novel explores questions about how quickly true love can develop, as well as the conflicts that can imperil even the strongest connections. Despite a limited cast of characters and very few setting changes, the narrative manages to remain both fast-paced and engaging. The conclusion leaves a few too many loose ends, but the chemistry between the characters and unexpected twists throughout make for a satisfying read.

A unique story of transcendent love.

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5420-0017-8

Page Count: 301

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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Enjoyable storytelling by two masters of the craft.

22 SECONDS

Lindsay Boxer faces a ton of trouble in the latest entry in Patterson and Paetro’s Women’s Murder Club series.

Senior crime reporter Cindy Thomas is writing a biography of Evan Burke, a notorious serial killer who sits in solitary confinement in San Quentin. She’s kidnapped by thugs wanting her to talk about her best friend, Lindsay Boxer, who’s an SFPD homicide detective and the story’s main character. San Francisco has a restrictive new gun law, and gun-totin’ folks everywhere have their boxer shorts in a twist. A national resistance movement has formed—Defenders of the Second—whose motto is “We will not comply.” They find it outrageous that the new law makes it illegal to own a gun that can kill 50 people with a single clip. Meanwhile, lots of bodies show up: A young girl disappears and is later found dead in a ditch, and ex-cops are found dead with their lips stapled shut and “You talk, you die” written on their foreheads. An inmate is found hanged in prison. And “a massive but unspecified load of military-style weaponry was en route from Mexico to the City by the Bay.” In a “frustrating, multipronged case,” there’s a harrowing shootout memorialized in a video showing “twenty-two of the scariest seconds” of Boxer’s life. She’s an appealing series hero with loving family and friends, but she may arrive at a crossroads where she has “to choose between my work and [my] baby girl.” The formulaic story has unmemorable writing, but it’s entertaining and well told. You probably won’t have to worry about the main characters, who have thus far survived 21 adventures. Except for the little girl, you can expect people to get what they deserve. It's relatively mild as crime novels go, but the women characters are serious, strong, and admirable.

Enjoyable storytelling by two masters of the craft.

Pub Date: May 2, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-49937-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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