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CITY OF DREAMS

Enjoyable despite a few flaws, but damn, it’s dark.

A gangster heads to LA in this bleak sequel to City on Fire (2022).

It's 1988. Recently widowed drug dealer Danny Ryan wants to “get the hell out of Rhode Island,” where the victorious rival Moretti crime family wants him dead. He and a few buddies steal millions of dollars’ worth of the Morettis’ heroin, which he dumps into the ocean. Then they rob the gang of cold, hard cash, lots of it. But Danny won’t kill anyone. “We came for the money, not a massacre, Danny thought. Tens of millions of dollars in cash to start new lives, not keep reliving the old ones.” Then he and his pals head west to Tinseltown. More than anything else, he’d like to protect his young son, Ian, and raise him in a crime-free environment. Perhaps Danny’s estranged mother, Madeleine, can help if he’ll allow it. You’d think he’d keep a low profile, but instead he makes a series of blunders such as investing in a particular movie and boffing a famous actress. Thus, he forgets his old man’s advice: “When you’re on the run, you leave the skirts alone.” Danny is, to play on the book’s favorite profanity, effing inept. (Of course, if he does everything right there is no story, so there’s that.) Instead of leaving his East Coast troubles behind, he brings them along where they metastasize into bloody violence. The story is well crafted but for a deus ex machina ending, and even that is enough of a shocker that readers may not mind. Along the way are a couple of eye-popping twists. And there are some great lines: “I thought Jesus died for my sins…” Danny muses. “Maybe my sins just maxed out Christ’s credit card.” And “Ned Egan has killed more guys than cholesterol.” While the story can stand alone, readers might want to read City on Fire first, as it provides essential background and is the better story. There is a glimmer inside Danny Ryan suggesting he wants to become—could become—a good person if he can only survive. The story has no more violence than many other crime thrillers, but a sense of hopelessness progressively builds. Danny pisses off his enemies, has the FBI’s attention, and brings heartbreak to Hollywood. He may not live to raise his 3-year-old son.

Enjoyable despite a few flaws, but damn, it’s dark.

Pub Date: April 18, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-06-285123-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 10, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2023

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DEVOLUTION

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

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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. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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HOME IS WHERE THE BODIES ARE

Answers are hard to come by in this twisting tale designed to trick and delight.

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Three siblings on very different paths learn that their family home may be haunted by secrets.

Eldest daughter Beth is alone with her fading mother as she takes her final breath and says something about Beth’s long-departed brother and sister, who may not have disappeared forever. Beth is still reeling from the loss of her mother when her estranged siblings show up. Michael, the youngest, hasn’t been home since their father’s disappearance seven years ago. In the meantime, he’s outgrown his siblings, trading his share of the family troubles for a high-paying job in San Jose. Nicole, the middle child, has been overpowered by addiction and prioritized tuning out reality over any sense of responsibility, much to Beth’s disgust. Though their mother’s death marks an ending for the family, it’s also a beginning, as the three siblings realize when they find a disturbing videotape among their parents’ belongings. The video, from 1999, sheds suspicion on their father’s disappearance, linking it to a long-unsolved neighborhood mystery. Was it just a series of unfortunate circumstances that broke the family apart, or does something more sinister underlie the sadness they’ve all found in life? In chapters that rotate among the family’s first-person narratives, the siblings take turns digging up stories and secrets in their search for solace.

Answers are hard to come by in this twisting tale designed to trick and delight.

Pub Date: April 30, 2024

ISBN: 9798212182843

Page Count: 270

Publisher: Blackstone

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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