An uneven love story with intriguing historical details.




A man contemplates his marriage, family, and life in this contemporary romance with philosophical themes.

Philosophy Ph.D. candidate Brendan Ryan fulfills his dream of a Thoreau-like existence in Maine when he escapes Boston and his unhappy wife for a cabin in Caribou, where he embarks on “his personal search for truth, his search for the meaning of existence.” He plans to spend the summer reading and rekindling a relationship with his son, Corey. The two are having a good time, but a conflict arises when Brendan is reunited with a French-accented beauty, Cosette Fontaine, at the local diner. They met when he passed through Maine while purchasing the cabin. Named after the tragic character in Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables as a tribute to her Acadian heritage, the alluring waitress stands out in the small town. Brendan is immediately attracted to her open nature, so unlike his pinched and constantly complaining wife. He and Cosette engage in a light affair in spite of his marriage that quickly accelerates into love. Brendan is soon musing that “maybe my search for truth is over, my dear sweet angel—I may have found it right here with you.” But the unanswered questions involving his wife and marriage and whether he will return to Boston in the fall remain. At its heart, Carroll’s (Slum Fever, 2015, etc.) ambitious novel is more about Acadian history in Maine than a summer romance or philosophical journey. He delivers plenty of rich, vivid period details, including about the Ku Klux Klan’s role in the 1920s (“Prejudice against French-speaking Americans, especially Acadian French-speaking, began when the Klan came in”). But the story is populated by stock characters: the downtrodden husband, the fat harridan of a wife, the enchanting waitress, and the folksy, proverb-spouting handyman. Readers will struggle to identify with serial adulterer Brendan, who recalls his affairs with two sexy undergraduates. And Cosette seems bipolar, one minute playing coy, the next cursing about a rude waitress (“It’s really time for her to fucking croak!”).

An uneven love story with intriguing historical details.

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 2018


Page Count: 281

Publisher: Vanity Press Books

Review Posted Online: May 25, 2018

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.


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.


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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