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WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT

An edgy, darkly comedic debut novel whose characters and premise are as up-to-the-minute as an online news feed but as...

A droll, all-too-plausible contemporary thriller pulls a mismatched trio of stressed-out 30-somethings into underground guerilla warfare against a sinister conspiracy to own the information superhighway.

On one side of the world, you have Leila Majnoun, an increasingly jaded operative for a global nonprofit agency struggling to do good deeds despite the brutal, stonewalling autocrats who run Myanmar (Burma). On another side is Mark Deveraux, a self-loathing self-improvement guru living a glamorous and debt-ridden lifestyle in the promised land of Brooklyn. Somewhere in the middle (Portland, Oregon, to be precise) is Mark’s old school chum Leo Crane, a misanthropic poor-little-rich-kid grown into a trouble-prone, substance-abusing and seedily paranoid adult. The destinies of these three lost souls are somehow yoked together by an international cabal of one-percenters who want to create something called “New Alexandria,” where all the information available (or even unavailable) online will be in their money-grubbing control, thereby making the recent real-life National Security Agency abuses of power seem like benign neglect. Shafer’s arch prose, comedic timing and deft feel for shadowy motives in high places are reminiscent of the late Richard Condon (The Manchurian Candidate), only with sweeter, deeper characterizations. At times, you wish he’d move things along a wee bit faster and make his menace more tangibly scary than it is here. But it’s also possible that Shafer is remaking the international thriller into something more humane and thus more credible than what fans of the genre are accustomed to.

An edgy, darkly comedic debut novel whose characters and premise are as up-to-the-minute as an online news feed but as classic as the counterculture rebellions once evoked by Edward Abbey and Ken Kesey.

Pub Date: Aug. 5, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-316-25263-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Mulholland Books/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2014

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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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