Next book


An intriguing medical tale hampered by uneven prose.

An SF thriller focuses on a world where clones thrive and a new vaccine promises possible immortality.

Dr. Avicenna “Avit” Arceneaux is a young pathologist working on the Panacea vaccine, which will be distributed worldwide. As the rollout is about to start, Arceneaux and his assistant, Mathieu Boden, perform an autopsy on a corpse with a strange condition—the person died by rotting from the inside out. Surgeon General Story Patout, who is in charge of the vaccine project, begins an experiment on Arceneaux and hospital administrator Sister Lazare, both clones, to see if he can mutate them into a higher form. Arceneaux participates against his will, and as the experiment starts to affect him, pandemonium breaks loose. The Panacea vaccine turns out to contain a plague that kills millions around the globe. This was Patout’s plan all along. Arceneaux was “harvested” as a child, meaning his organs were taken to save his brother, Roby, leaving the pathologist scarred and seeing the world through prosthetic eyes. The experiment heals Arceneaux, giving him human eyes and long hair, which makes him look feminine. He uses this disguise to stay in the hospital, posing as the sister of a doctor named Elise Casaubon, and avoid Patout, who wants to harvest him again for antibodies. This sets up a battle pitting Arceneaux, Lazare, and Elise against Patout, Roby, and Elise’s sleazy husband, Richard, to end the surgeon general’s programs for the good of humankind. The novel has the bones of a captivating SF adventure, offering rich details and a remarkable protagonist. But the story feels convoluted, and there are a lot of helpful coincidences, such as Arceneaux’s looking feminine after the experiment takes hold. There is no thorough explanation for that, though it makes much of the following action possible. Unfortunately, the villains are cartoonish. Patout at one point explains that he was actually trying to help humanity by killing a large percentage of the population, reducing the strain on global resources. But there is no sense of what would drive him to such a monstrous deed. In addition, awkward prose hinders the narrative, as when Crouch writes of Arceneaux: “Anxiety broke over him like a red flag surf in the Gulf.” And instead of telling readers Roby has a trademark sneer, the author writes: “He sneered and it was a trademark.”

An intriguing medical tale hampered by uneven prose.

Pub Date: July 28, 2020

ISBN: 979-8-63-927580-7

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2021

Next book


Suspenseful, frightening, and sometimes poignant—provided the reader has a generously willing suspension of disbelief.

A man walks out of a bar and his life becomes a kaleidoscope of altered states in this science-fiction thriller.

Crouch opens on a family in a warm, resonant domestic moment with three well-developed characters. At home in Chicago’s Logan Square, Jason Dessen dices an onion while his wife, Daniela, sips wine and chats on the phone. Their son, Charlie, an appealing 15-year-old, sketches on a pad. Still, an undertone of regret hovers over the couple, a preoccupation with roads not taken, a theme the book will literally explore, in multifarious ways. To start, both Jason and Daniela abandoned careers that might have soared, Jason as a physicist, Daniela as an artist. When Charlie was born, he suffered a major illness. Jason was forced to abandon promising research to teach undergraduates at a small college. Daniela turned from having gallery shows to teaching private art lessons to middle school students. On this bracing October evening, Jason visits a local bar to pay homage to Ryan Holder, a former college roommate who just received a major award for his work in neuroscience, an honor that rankles Jason, who, Ryan says, gave up on his career. Smarting from the comment, Jason suffers “a sucker punch” as he heads home that leaves him “standing on the precipice.” From behind Jason, a man with a “ghost white” face, “red, pursed lips," and "horrifying eyes” points a gun at Jason and forces him to drive an SUV, following preset navigational directions. At their destination, the abductor forces Jason to strip naked, beats him, then leads him into a vast, abandoned power plant. Here, Jason meets men and women who insist they want to help him. Attempting to escape, Jason opens a door that leads him into a series of dark, strange, yet eerily familiar encounters that sometimes strain credibility, especially in the tale's final moments.

Suspenseful, frightening, and sometimes poignant—provided the reader has a generously willing suspension of disbelief.

Pub Date: July 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-90422-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

Next book


Layered and grandly operatic in scope and tension.

Four years after a woman allegedly murdered her best friends while sleepwalking, an ambitious London psychologist gets the opportunity to treat her—and to determine, once and for all, her guilt or innocence.

Dr. Benedict Prince, forensic psychologist and sleep specialist, is summoned to a meeting with Dr. Virginia Bloom (his boss at the Abbey Sleep Clinic) and a man from the Ministry of Justice to discuss a recent article in which Ben proposed a possible cure to “resignation syndrome,” which is when a patient enters a deep sleep, often lasting for years, as a way of directly avoiding trauma. The government wants Ben to conduct an experiment on a notorious (alleged) criminal: a young journalist named Anna Ogilvy, aka “Sleeping Beauty,” who’s believed to have murdered two people while sleepwalking, and who hasn’t woken up in the four years since. The government needs Anna awake so she can stand trial for these murders. Ben, of course, has little choice but to agree, and he begins sensory stimulation therapy, believing that if he can connect Anna’s subconscious to happy memories from her childhood, he may be able to wake her. Before she went to sleep, Anna was working to uncover a connection between one of the most notorious English murderers of the 20th century and a secret government experiment called MEDEA. While she might be guilty, Ben realizes that she might also have been a scapegoat for someone else’s murderous rage. And if this shadowy someone has previously killed to protect their secret, Anna’s waking may put her, and Ben, in danger. From the bowels of a notorious psychiatric hospital to a primeval forest to the sun-drenched beaches of Grand Cayman, Blake’s thriller invokes comparisons to Greek tragedies and locked-room mysteries alike, while exploring the additional complicated psychology of sleep and guilt. While this is fully a “whodunit” with an actual solution, it’s even more a “whydunit.” Once you pick it up, there’s no putting it down.

Layered and grandly operatic in scope and tension.

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2024

ISBN: 9780063314153

Page Count: 448

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2023

Close Quickview