Slap-dash plotting, pedestrian prose, stick figure hero: a terminal case.

THE CURE

Medical thriller about a feckless young doctor in over the head he ought to have examined.

Take that whole risky business with Restore Tabs, for instance. Anyone playing with a full deck would have known the darn things were too good to be true. Wake up, heedless (if handsome) young Dr. Steven McClaren. Enhances breast size, increases sex drive, chases wrinkles—and that’s just for starters, he’s told. So there’s gullible Dr. Steve irresponsibly doing TV commercials for Ecolabs, the herb firm that makes and markets Restore Tabs—and he’s doing it simply because his old college buddy, the company’s CEO, has asked him to. In the meantime, that hot new miracle product, “the female Viagara,” has suddenly begun to cause vaginal bleeding in a goodly percentage of those persuaded to use it. Oh, mindless Dr. Steve. Equally ill-advised is his torrid affair with Ecolabs exec Francesca Taylor. Never mind that “bar none, she had the greatest body” he’d ever seen, the point is that only a dim bulb could have failed to spot her as a distaff Iago. And Dr. Steve pays a draconian price for the lust in his heart. Thanks to Francesca and her several co-conspirators, he’s bitten by a poisonous Australian jellyfish, nearly flattened by a charging Mercedes, knocked down, stabbed, and burnt out—escaping the flames that consume his house at the very last minute. Why are Francesca and friends in such a conspiratorial frenzy? A get-rich scam involving Restore Tabs seems to be at the heart of it, though it’s hard to be definitive when a plot becomes as muddled as this one. And also hard to care much when Dr. Steve muddles through this seventh try for physician/novelist Shobin (The Unborn, 1981, etc.).

Slap-dash plotting, pedestrian prose, stick figure hero: a terminal case.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-312-26686-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000

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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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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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