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CONFESSIONS OF AN INNOCENT MAN

A solidly suspenseful novel by an anti–death penalty activist that—despite some surprising detours—reads like a novel by an...

An acclaimed professor, memoirist, and activist delivers a debut novel that’s a page-turner with a message.

Rafael Zhettah doesn’t want or need much out of life. He likes to cook at his restaurant, he likes to be alone, and not a single part of him expected to marry a billionaire and then be sent to death row for killing her, a murder he didn’t commit. Dow (Law/University of Houston Law Center and History/Rice University; Things I've Learned from Dying, 2014, etc.) is the author of two memoirs detailing his experiences with the Texas Innocence Network, devoted to helping death row inmates with their appeals. His criminal justice work is a clear influence on this novel, and his passion bleeds through on every page. The claustrophobic nature of prisons, the routine cruelty, the anonymous suffering, the decrepit conditions—they all come through in straightforward, well-written prose. “Men do not go crazy from being locked in a cage. They do not go crazy from the outside pushing in. They crack from the inside pushing out. When you take away hope, madness fills its place, and madness is loud.” Dow knows his stuff. Authenticity is this novel’s strongest element, but the message can sometimes drown out the drama. Narrated by Zhettah in a quick, direct style, the novel feels like two books in one. The first half is about Zhettah’s time on death row. The second features his intricate and intriguing plan for revenge—two judges, a missile silo, two planes, a parachute, some light computer hacking, and lots of MREs feature in his plotting. In this novel, justice is not just blind, it’s hamstrung, but the reader knows from the start that the scales will be balanced by the end.

A solidly suspenseful novel by an anti–death penalty activist that—despite some surprising detours—reads like a novel by an anti–death penalty activist.

Pub Date: April 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4388-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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DEVOLUTION

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

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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. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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THE SILENT PATIENT

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

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A woman accused of shooting her husband six times in the face refuses to speak.

"Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband. They had been married for seven years. They were both artists—Alicia was a painter, and Gabriel was a well-known fashion photographer." Michaelides' debut is narrated in the voice of psychotherapist Theo Faber, who applies for a job at the institution where Alicia is incarcerated because he's fascinated with her case and believes he will be able to get her to talk. The narration of the increasingly unrealistic events that follow is interwoven with excerpts from Alicia's diary. Ah, yes, the old interwoven diary trick. When you read Alicia's diary you'll conclude the woman could well have been a novelist instead of a painter because it contains page after page of detailed dialogue, scenes, and conversations quite unlike those in any journal you've ever seen. " 'What's the matter?' 'I can't talk about it on the phone, I need to see you.' 'It's just—I'm not sure I can make it up to Cambridge at the minute.' 'I'll come to you. This afternoon. Okay?' Something in Paul's voice made me agree without thinking about it. He sounded desperate. 'Okay. Are you sure you can't tell me about it now?' 'I'll see you later.' Paul hung up." Wouldn't all this appear in a diary as "Paul wouldn't tell me what was wrong"? An even more improbable entry is the one that pins the tail on the killer. While much of the book is clumsy, contrived, and silly, it is while reading passages of the diary that one may actually find oneself laughing out loud.

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30169-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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