More erudite than Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, McIntosh’s complex thriller incorporates notes about Babylonian and...

THE WITCH OF BABYLON

As McIntosh’s debut adventure novel opens, New York City art dealer John Madison is depressed, in a “black hole.”

John believes he caused the car accident that killed his older brother, Samuel, a renowned Mesopotamian expert. John’s drawn out of his funk by an invitation to a party at the mansion of childhood friend Hal Vanderlin. It helps that Hal owes him commission fees. At the party, John meets a startlingly beautiful blonde, Eris, but discovers Hal feeding his heroin habit. John gives up on the girl and on collecting his fees. Later, he’s urgently called back to the mansion. Hal is dead, and Eris is somehow involved. John next meets Tomas Zakar, Iraqi archaeologist and Samuel’s colleague. Zakar tells him Samuel rescued a stone tablet covered with cuneiform writing, an antiquity that may be the Book of Nahum, an original of a seminal Hebrew text written as the fabled ancient city of Nineveh was sacked. In 2003 Baghdad, Samuel saved the tablet from post-invasion looting by sending it out of Iraq. John soon learns Hal stole the tablet from storage while John was hospitalized post-accident. Hal resented John, and post-mortem, Hal has presented John with a puzzle leading to the tablet’s location. More characters enter the mix, including Laurel, Hal’s estranged wife, and Jacob Ward, a biblical scholar. Adding a modern alchemy cult means the story grows more complicated, which in turn, slows the pace in spite of bombs, Tasers and beatings. Witchcraft is also involved, Hal’s late mother being a practicing witch in possession of a grimoire, a book of spells and incantations. McIntosh adds the Whore of Babylon, Hermetic thought, symbolic Phrygian headgear, Dürer art, the Midas legend, treasures of assorted Assyrian kings and a kidnapping, with a side trip to Turkey, before it's all sorted out back in NYC.

More erudite than Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, McIntosh’s complex thriller incorporates notes about Babylonian and Mesopotamian cultures plus a bibliography.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7653-3366-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Forge

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

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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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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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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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