A stylish novel from a fine comedic storyteller who hopefully has more than one book in him.

The Antichrist of Kokomo County

Skinner’s debut novel is a clever, funny chronicle of an apocalypse narrowly averted and of greatness diverted.

Franklin Bartholomew Horvath is a loser from a long line of losers. But at the outset of this story, he proclaims that his time as an inconsequential cog is about to come to an end and that he may be the savior of mankind. He’s about to enter the office of the former United Church of Satan in Berry, Indiana (they now call themselves the Church of the Epistemological Emendation to avoid harassment from the locals). He has a 9 mm handgun hidden in his pants and his 12-year-old son, Michael, nicknamed “Sparky,” in tow. Skinner then tells the story of what led Frankie to this desperate point. When Frankie was 12 years old, his father had an epiphany that there would be a “Great Horvath,” an exceptional person, in the family. Young Frankie is crushed to learn, though, that it won’t be him—but it could be his son. When Frankie finally has a kid, the local Rev. Phipps declares little Sparky the Antichrist. Frankie doesn’t believe it, but his wife buys it immediately. So he and his wife try to save the world by raising an unremarkable child, addling him with sugar and television and doing everything they can to keep him from excelling. (It’s also perfect revenge against Frankie’s father, who was counting on Sparky to be the Great Horvath.) This eventually leads to a showdown with the Satanists, which Frankie believes could decide the fate of humanity. Overall, this is a fantastically inventive story with plenty of fun twists that’s told with great humor. In Frankie, Skinner has created his own version of Ignatius J. Reilly from John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces (1980); Frankie is a bit more self-aware than Toole’s protagonist, but he’s no less deluded. The structure of the novel does make it seem like a bit of a shaggy dog story at times, and the author holds back a few details for a setup in a way that seems like cheating. However, the payoff is worth it.

A stylish novel from a fine comedic storyteller who hopefully has more than one book in him.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2015


Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2015

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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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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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Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless...


Two defrocked Secret Service Agents investigate the assassination of one presidential candidate and the kidnapping of another.

Baldacci (The Christmas Train, 2002, etc.) sets out with two plot strands. The first begins when something distracts Secret Service Agent Sean King and during that “split second,” presidential candidate Clyde Ritter is shot dead. King takes out the killer, but that’s not enough to save his reputation with the Secret Service. He retires and goes on to do often tedious but nonetheless always lucrative work (much like a legal thriller such as this) at a law practice. Plot two begins eight years later when another Secret Service Agent, Michelle Maxwell, lets presidential candidate John Bruno out of her sight for a few minutes at a wake for one of his close associates. He goes missing. Now Maxwell, too, gets in dutch with the SS. Though separated by time, the cases are similar and leave several questions unanswered. What distracted King at the rally? Bruno had claimed his friend’s widow called him to the funeral home. The widow (one of the few characters here to have any life) says she never called Bruno. Who set him up? Who did a chambermaid at Ritter’s hotel blackmail? And who is the man in the Buick shadowing King’s and Maxwell’s every move? King is a handsome, rich divorce, Maxwell an attractive marathon runner. Will they join forces and find each other kind of, well, appealing? But of course. The two former agents traverse the countryside, spinning endless hypotheses before the onset, at last, of a jerrybuilt conclusion that begs credibility and offers few surprises.

Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless concoction.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2003

ISBN: 0-446-53089-1

Page Count: 406

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2003

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