Not for the faint of heart, but this novel’s character studies and ever shifting plot will excite fans of English noir.

The Evil And The Pure

Dash (Sunburn, 2015) offers an ensemble drama about violence, drug addiction, and sex trafficking set in a bleak underworld of London mobsters.

The author spins a complex web of plots and characters in this novel, but at its heart are three very different personalities: Kevin Tyne, a desperate young man willing to sell his own sister, Tulip, into prostitution; Clint Smith, a film-obsessed nebbish who wishes he was a gangster; and Big Sandy, an enforcer so loyal to his gang that he’s willing to sacrifice himself at any moment. What draws them all together is a catastrophically powerful experimental drug that has the potential to hugely profit its owners and also lay waste to entire communities. Clint steals its formula and forms a tentative alliance with Kevin and other unsavory men, while Big Sandy is sent to steal it back. The book flaunts the grim panache of a London crime saga, and all the characters are engaging, no matter how despicable they are. But its world can also be hyperbolically awful, as when Kevin demands to watch men have sex with his sister or when Gawl McCaskey, a psychopathic thug, impulsively slashes the arm of a random stranger; even the priest, Father Sebastian, has unspeakable sexual appetites. The dialogue is full of macho declarations, as when a mobster threatens a captured drug dealer: “If you tell me where the money is and what happened to the formula, I’ll shoot you through the skull….Otherwise…you’ll squirm for hours in the kind of agony no human can dream about until they’re subjected to it. Your call.” As exploitative as Dash’s characters are, though, he provides plenty of back story to justify their actions and attitudes. In the end, the author seems to delight in punishing his protagonists for their sins by shooting, strangling, and battering the life out of them. As a result, for the first 400 pages or so, the story occupies a moral gray area, but in the final chapters, there’s no question who’s evil and who’s pure.

Not for the faint of heart, but this novel’s character studies and ever shifting plot will excite fans of English noir.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-5077-3719-4

Page Count: 714

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2015

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

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once...

DELIVER US FROM EVIL

In Baldacci’s 19th (True Blue, 2009, etc.), boy and girl monster-hunters meet cute.

Evan Waller, aka Fadir Kuchin, aka “the Butcher of Kiev,” aka “the Ukrainian psychopath,” is one of those deep-dyed villains a certain kind of fiction can’t do without. Serving with distinction as part of the Soviet Union’s KGB, he joyfully and indiscriminately killed thousands. Now, many years later, posing as a successful businessman, he’s vacationing in Provence where, unbeknownst to him, two separate clandestine operations are being mounted by people who do not regard him with favor. Reggie Campion—28 and gorgeous—spearheads the first, an ad hoc group of monster-hunting vigilantes. Studly, tall Shaw (no first name supplied) is point guard for a rival team, shadowy enough to leave the matter of its origin ambiguous. While their respective teams reconnoiter and jockey for position, studly boy meets gorgeous girl. Monster-hunters are famous for having trust issues, but clearly these are drawn to each other in the time-honored Hollywood fashion. Shaw saves Reggie’s life. She returns the favor. The attraction deepens and heats up to the point where team-members on both sides grow unsettled by the loss of focus, singularly inopportune since, as monsters go, Waller rises to the second coming of Caligula—ample testimony furnished by a six-page, unsparingly detailed torture scene. In the end, the stalkers strike, bullets fly, screams curdle the blood, love has its innings and a monster does what a monster’s got to do.

The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once again show the stuff it’s made of.

Pub Date: April 20, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-446-56408-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Avon A/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2010

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