Just when it seemed like Koontz had run out of gas with this quickly knocked-out road series (it debuted with The Silent...

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THE NIGHT WINDOW

In the fifth installment of an ongoing story (The Forbidden Door, 2018, etc.), wrongly dishonored FBI agent Jane Hawk faces her worst fear in her lonely fight against an evil male conspiracy embedded in the halls of power: the abduction of her son, Travis.

The ruthless enemy, called the Techno Arcadians, have been scrubbing people of their memories and their identities with nanotech implants and turning many of them into robotic servants and sex slaves. To keep Travis safe while she goes after them, doing all she can to evade their sophisticated surveillance systems, Hawk has hidden him with friends in Arizona. Beautiful, brilliant, and supertough, she gains a valuable running partner in lovable pal Vikram Rangnekar, a recently resigned FBI employee who has acquired a pile of government secrets with his "back door" hacking skills. While they pursue the baddies, Jane in her latest disguise, the billionaire behind the conspiracy hunts a young filmmaker he has enticed to his Colorado spread for sport, à la "The Most Dangerous Game," only on snowmobiles. The crowded plot also features an Arcadian "missionary for the truth of random cruelty" who is after Vikram and a mob-connected misfit who has his own reasons for going after Travis. The book could stand to lose one of its narratives (and stay more with Hawk), and Koontz tends to take too long to do something with a plot point. But this is still the best installment in the series since the first. Vikram, who has an impossible crush on Hawk, is a very good addition. And there are some neat gadgets to ponder, including camera-operated facial recognition eyeglasses (though the book contradicts itself on how quickly they can establish a match).

Just when it seemed like Koontz had run out of gas with this quickly knocked-out road series (it debuted with The Silent Corner in 2017), he revs it up with entertaining encounters and offbeat humor.

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-48470-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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

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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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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