A slow boil that expertly paints a private detective and the war-torn land where he resides.

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Closure

In Magee’s debut thriller, a British military operative turned private investigator gets caught in a crossfire when a missing person case takes him deep into the Republican heartland of north Belfast.

This novel operates under a set of rules unique to Northern Ireland: never trust outsiders, keep to yourself, and avoid even the appearance of cooperation with police or other government officials. So when Roisin Byrne hires Jack Brennan to locate her missing husband, the private eye knows he’ll have his work cut out for him. The fact that Tony Byrne—a Catholic who chose to have Protestant friends—could vanish without a trace is disturbing, and even three years after his disappearance, Tony’s friends and neighbors (including the parish priest) remain reluctant to get involved in the investigation. They believe the man is likely dead, the victim of sectarian sparring. It’s a scenario that Brennan finds convincing, but Roisin begs him to continue his search, pleading: “I want him back—even his bones—if that’s all there is.” Despite his misgivings, Brennan continues his investigation. Could the Irish Republican Army be involved? A gang of racketeers? Or is Tony’s disappearance related to a case of mistaken identity? Magee’s novel could have used a bit more action in the first half. However, it succeeds in establishing the taciturn Brennan as a bona fide player in the world of mystery fiction. The duty-bound, resolute PI proves himself as the type of conflicted, rules-be-damned character that’s proven popular time and again with crime-novel fans. Although deeply loyal, Brennan, who also served in the American Special Forces, is bedeviled by a quick temper and trust issues. The author weaves just enough clues about the investigator’s past into the finely developed plot to make sure his lead character’s back story complements, but doesn’t eclipse, the hunt for the missing Tony. Minor copy editing errors are an annoyance, however (“Smartly dressed in mid-grey suits they looked for all the world like a couple of Mormon’s out on a recruiting patrol”). Overall, though, Magee crafts a riveting tale that will keep readers guessing until the end.

A slow boil that expertly paints a private detective and the war-torn land where he resides. 

Pub Date: March 21, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4954-2571-4

Page Count: 438

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2015

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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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