The stage brogue Billy keeps slipping into at every sign of trouble (“She calls me an eedjit, and still I love the woman”),...

HEARTLAND

Sturdy, predictable thriller about a traumatized Secret Service agent who retires to his cozy midwestern hometown—only to find it honeycombed with the violence he thought he’d left behind in this.

Long after the confrontation with a demented terrorist who killed his partner and nearly killed him, Billy Tree still wakens with night sweats. And no wonder, since the conspirator who ended his career has nothing on the threats to the Nebraska peace. A bunch of nasty bikers are clearly peddling drugs, and a pair of trash-talking gangbangers seems to have every intention of getting in on their action. Closer to home, there’s Duane Blanchard, the mean, skilled battler who’s never let go of Joan, the school nurse who divorced him, and Curtis Metzger, his big, ferocious pal—not to mention Curtis’s Nazi-loving son Sandy, who becomes Sheriff Pat Kunkel’s chief suspect the minute the smoke clears from the killing of school principal Thom Cohan (already taunted by the Metzgers for his allegedly Jewish name before he was shot along with an inoffensive teacher during a pre–school-year meeting). Kunkel, insisting that Billy’s Secret Service background gives him an expertise the sheriff sorely needs, inveigles Billy into tagging along on the investigation. But Billy, who’s never quite stopped carrying a torch for Joan Blanchard, can feel himself slipping into another, even less comfortable role as her latest lover—and the next target of her ex’s murderous rage. If none of this sounds very original, Wiltse pumps it up efficiently, revealing some dastardly new secret every 40 pages or so, and tying the formula intrigue conscientiously into domestic small-town travails.

The stage brogue Billy keeps slipping into at every sign of trouble (“She calls me an eedjit, and still I love the woman”), however, shows how much Wiltse’s taken off the intensity of his ultra-tough thrillers about the FBI’s John Becker (Blown Away, 1996, etc.)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-312-26957-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2001

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 42

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more