A bold and bracing twist on the fallen-woman-as-victim story.

THE LESS DEAD

Finding out about the long-ago murder of her teenage mother fills a woman’s life with terror in this riveting story.

The latest from the prolific Mina is a stand-alone novel. Glasgow doctor Margo Dunlop is grieving the death of her adoptive mother and the breakup of her relationship with the eccentric but affable Joe when she learns she is pregnant. She goes in search of her biological mother and drops right into a nightmare. Months after Margo’s birth and adoption, her mother was brutally murdered. Susan Brodie was a 19-year-old sex worker and former junkie, making her one of the “less dead” of the title, victims the police shrug off as disposable. Margo hears the grisly story when she meets her aunt, Nikki, a survivor of the same desperate circumstances that killed her sister. Nikki might be sober now, but she still has an addict’s deviousness. She is also sure she knows who murdered Susan—a corrupt cop named Martin McPhail—and she urges Margo, who has the money and status Nikki lacks, to help bring him down. The killer, Nikki says, still sends her threatening letters with objects related to Susan’s murder. Margo has barely begun to absorb this disturbing information when she starts getting such letters herself. As she struggles to figure out whom to trust, she’s also dealing with the nasty breakup between her best friend, flighty Lilah, and her obsessive ex, Richard, who is Joe’s brother. Margo meets Jack Robertson, a slickly charming true-crime writer,  and Diane Gallagher, an impressive retired police detective, who both know more about Susan’s death than they’re saying. Mina is matchless at building suspicion and creeping dread. Susan might have been a victim, but the novel is filled with strong, resourceful women who won’t let her life and death render her “less."

A bold and bracing twist on the fallen-woman-as-victim story.  

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-31652-851-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Mulholland Books/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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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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This one’s an attention grabber. Get a copy.

THE SCORPION'S TAIL

Past and present collide on a trail of death in the second in the authors’ Nora Kelly series, begun with Old Bones (2019).

When a local sheriff investigates the illegal activity of relic hunters in an abandoned, middle-of-nowhere New Mexico gold-mining town called High Lonesome, he discovers a mummified corpse and a fabulous cross of gold. The discovery is on federal land, so the FBI gets involved. Special Agent Corrie Swanson would have liked a juicier assignment than checking out some old bones in the high desert, but she has a degree in forensic anthropology, and she’s a rookie. She persuades a reluctant Dr. Nora Kelly, senior curator at the Santa Fe Archaeological Institute, to help puzzle out what happened to the man, as it’s unclear whether a crime has been committed. Forensics determine that the gold is slightly radioactive, and there’s a pack animal skull with a bullet hole. And by the looks of the decades-old corpse, the poor man suffered a horrible death. High Lonesome is on the Jornada del Muerto, or Dead Man’s Journey, the bleak and dismal trail that connected Mexico City and Santa Fe during Spanish colonial rule. The authors are expert plotters and storytellers with smart, engaging characters—Kelly is an experienced pro who thinks Swanson “looked very much the rookie.” Newbie Swanson had barely passed her firearms qualification, and being a lousy shot may bring tragic consequences and a guilty conscience. Luckily, Sheriff Watts has practiced his quick draw since he was a preschooler. Meanwhile, some of those relic hunters are dangerous men searching for an object—not the gold—unknown to Kelly and Swanson. To a descendant of the dead man, “most people would have thought his precious item fit only to line a henhouse with.” Expect nice twists, hairy danger, and good old-fashioned gunplay.

This one’s an attention grabber. Get a copy.

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4727-8

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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