A sound mystery fronted by an immensely likable detective primed for a sequel.

READ REVIEW

DOWNSIZED

WITH EXTREME PREJUDICE

A retired Massachusetts cop-turned-private eye aids police in tracking down a killer intent on taking out greedy, specifically targeted corporate executives in this debut thriller.

The Valentine’s Day murder of Amalgamated Worldwide Enterprises’ CFO Sam Johnston is shocking by itself. But Johnston’s boss is AWE Chairman and CEO Bradford Baxton III, the notorious “king of downsizing,” whose purchase and systematic decimation of companies have left thousands unemployed. Baxton’s tie to the murder is undisputed later when a message from the killer, in the style of a press release, says AWE will be experiencing its own downsizing and lists future terminations, including the CEO. After the culprit follows through on at least one of those executions, Baxton seeks help from former cop Bill Coine, whom the company’s chief of security recommended. Coine’s enjoying retirement with his wife, Jeanie, but reluctantly takes the case—though first he has to file for a private investigator license. Countless people whose lives Baxton ruined have motives, but Coine quickly zeros in on public relations officer Lt. Kimberly Hale. Her father’s suicide years ago was likely the result of an AWE acquisition. Evidence against Kimberly, however, is circumstantial, and cops hunt for something more concrete. Baxton, meanwhile, lives up to the sour reputation he’s gradually earned. He’s undoubtedly worried about Johnston’s computer, making a motion for authorities to return it and claiming he doesn’t know the password for accessing it. Whether or not he’s hiding something sinister may come out at someone’s criminal trial, with cops hoping to put a murderer behind bars. Hanrahan’s novel is dense with characters, all of which the author skillfully manages. Individuals are progressively introduced, for example, and not all at once, while many, like First Assistant District Attorney and Chief of Homicide Sandra Jones, ease into the plot among a handful of already established characters. Likewise, Kimberly’s perspective puts an early spotlight on her, and though she’s the most viable suspect, it’s not abundantly clear that she’s guilty of the murders. This makes for an intriguing contrast to the characters’ unusually candid dialogue. Most say what they’re thinking, as in Baxton discussing Coine’s potential employment: “But let’s be blunt. I want to stay alive. That’s the real reason I’m willing to give you this retainer and an unlimited expense account.” Mystery, in spite of this, remains, with the killer’s identity in question and uncertainty surrounding Johnston’s “special projects,” presumably somewhere on his computer. Unfortunately, some of the dialogue is repetitive, especially different characters referring to Kimberly in similar colloquial terms: “gal,” “lady,” or “little miss blue eyes.” But Coine is an exceptional protagonist, joining the story as an outsider: he’s sleeping in while everyone else has been engaged in the narrative’s action. Conversations between Coine and Jeanie are diverting, especially when she initially urges her husband not to get involved with Johnston’s murder. It’s therefore disappointing when Jeanie drops out of the story, and even Coine is scarce during the final act (though it’s reasonable that his part in a trial would be minute).

A sound mystery fronted by an immensely likable detective primed for a sequel.

Pub Date: March 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5410-0469-6

Page Count: 436

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

  • SPONSORED PLACEMENT

One of those rare thrillers whose answers are even more scarifying than its mysteries.

AFTER ALL I'VE DONE

A middle-aged woman sidelined by a horrific accident finds even sharper pains waiting on the other side of her recuperation in this expert nightmare by Hardy, familiar to many readers as Megan Hart, author of All the Secrets We Keep (2017), etc.

Five months ago, while she was on her way to the hospital with an ailing gallbladder, Diana Sparrow’s car hit a deer on a rural Pennsylvania road. When she awoke, she was minus her gallbladder, two working collarbones (and therefore two functioning arms), and her memory. During a recovery that would’ve been impossible without the constant ministrations of Harriett Richmond, the mother-in-law who’s the real reason Diana married her husband, Jonathan, Diana’s discovered that Jonathan has been cheating on her with her childhood friend Valerie Delagatti. Divorce is out of the question: Diana’s grown used to the pampered lifestyle the prenup she’d signed would snatch away from her. Every day is filled with torments. She slips and falls in a pool of wine on her kitchen floor she’s sure she didn’t spill herself. At the emergency room, her credit card and debit card are declined. She feels that she hates oppressively solicitous Harriett but has no idea why. Her sessions with her psychiatrist fail to heal her rage at her adoptive mother, an addict who abandoned her then returned only to disappear again and die an ugly death. Even worse, her attempts to recover her lost memory lead to an excruciatingly paced series of revelations. Val says Diana asked her to seduce Jonathan. Diana realizes that Cole, a fellow student in her watercolor class, isn’t the stranger she’d thought he was. Where can this maze of deceptions possibly end?

One of those rare thrillers whose answers are even more scarifying than its mysteries.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64385-470-0

Page Count: 310

Publisher: Crooked Lane

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more