Complex, layered YA that easily appeals to adults, too.

Mind Over Bullies

A MOB FORMS

In this intricate YA tale, teenagers with special skills unite to confront bullying, though they end up fighting crime, murder, and terrorism.

From the opening car chase, this book grabs readers and holds on as it blossoms into a complex action-adventure with multiple intertwining plots. Smith (Sock N’ Boots—Afraid of the Dark, 2010, etc.) deftly juggles these numerous elements while creating a cast of believable, empathetic characters. Margo Rios, a bright reporter for her high school newspaper, is strong-willed and self-sufficient. She writes an anonymous blog and runs with the in crowd, which includes her best friend/soon-to-be mortal enemy, Kat. Margo scoffs at the idea that bullying could drive someone to suicide—until she sees it for herself. Margo is a different person. She continues her investigation of the student-run counterfeiting ring, which claimed the life of her friend Tony, and she finds that being ostracized from the popular crowd allows her to make new and interesting friends. Chief among them are Chase, a sound engineering genius; Corin, a multitalented exchange student from Italy; Jo Jo, a chemistry expert; and Taj, a computer wizard. Together they form Mind Over Bullies, a group that uses its myriad talents to out bullies and give them a taste of their own medicine. Eventually, MOB evolves into a true crime-fighting band of superheroes. Reminiscent of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, the teens outshine adults. They operate in their own world more or less autonomously, sometimes cooperating with grown-ups, other times circumventing them. Filled with numerous side plots involving family history, a mysterious corporation, a rare disease, terrorist plots, and more, Smith’s tale ties it all together seamlessly while continually sounding the bullying theme, which intensifies from everyday school harrying to a device for recruiting criminals. The conclusion sets up the next MOB exploit.

Complex, layered YA that easily appeals to adults, too.

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5118-2563-4

Page Count: 378

Publisher: Khamicom

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2015

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Enjoyable storytelling by two masters of the craft.

22 SECONDS

Lindsay Boxer faces a ton of trouble in the latest entry in Patterson and Paetro’s Women’s Murder Club series.

Senior crime reporter Cindy Thomas is writing a biography of Evan Burke, a notorious serial killer who sits in solitary confinement in San Quentin. She’s kidnapped by thugs wanting her to talk about her best friend, Lindsay Boxer, who’s an SFPD homicide detective and the story’s main character. San Francisco has a restrictive new gun law, and gun-totin’ folks everywhere have their boxer shorts in a twist. A national resistance movement has formed—Defenders of the Second—whose motto is “We will not comply.” They find it outrageous that the new law makes it illegal to own a gun that can kill 50 people with a single clip. Meanwhile, lots of bodies show up: A young girl disappears and is later found dead in a ditch, and ex-cops are found dead with their lips stapled shut and “You talk, you die” written on their foreheads. An inmate is found hanged in prison. And “a massive but unspecified load of military-style weaponry was en route from Mexico to the City by the Bay.” In a “frustrating, multipronged case,” there’s a harrowing shootout memorialized in a video showing “twenty-two of the scariest seconds” of Boxer’s life. She’s an appealing series hero with loving family and friends, but she may arrive at a crossroads where she has “to choose between my work and [my] baby girl.” The formulaic story has unmemorable writing, but it’s entertaining and well told. You probably won’t have to worry about the main characters, who have thus far survived 21 adventures. Except for the little girl, you can expect people to get what they deserve. It's relatively mild as crime novels go, but the women characters are serious, strong, and admirable.

Enjoyable storytelling by two masters of the craft.

Pub Date: May 2, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-49937-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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Top-drawer crime fiction. The authors are tough on the hero, but the hero is tough.

THE RED BOOK

Patterson and Ellis put their characters through hell in this hard-edged second installment of their Black Book series after The Black Book (2017).

A young girl is one of four people gunned down in a “very, very bad” K-Town drive-by shooting in Chicago. Police are under intense political pressure to solve it, so Detective Billy Harney is assigned to the Special Operations Section to put the brakes on the gang violence on the West Side. His new partner is Detective Carla Griffin, whom colleagues describe as “sober as an undertaker” and “as fun as a case of hemorrhoids.” And she looks like the last thing he needs, a pill popper. (But is she?) Department muckety-mucks want Harney to fail, and Griffin is supposed to spy on him. The poor guy already has a hell of a backstory: His daughter died and his wife committed suicide (or did she?) four years earlier, he’s been shot in the head, charged with murder (and exonerated), and helped put his own father in prison. (Nothing like a tormented hero!) Now the deaths still haunt him while he and Griffin begin to suspect they’re not looking at a simple turf war starring the Imperial Gangster Nation. Meanwhile, the captain in Internal Affairs is deep in the pocket of some bad guys who run an international human trafficking ring, and he loathes Harney. The protagonist is lucky to have Patti, his sister and fellow detective, as his one reliable friend who lets him know he’s being set up. The authors do masterful work creating flawed characters to root for or against, and they certainly pile up the troubles for Billy Harney. Abundant nasty twists will hold readers’ rapt attention in this dark, violent, and fast-moving thriller.

Top-drawer crime fiction. The authors are tough on the hero, but the hero is tough.

Pub Date: March 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-49940-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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