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CITY ON FIRE

Plenty of pain for the characters, plenty of thrills for the reader.

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A blistering novel filled with anger and bite.

Danny Ryan is a dockworker in Providence, Rhode Island, who’s “faithful like a dog” to his wife, Terri, of the rival Murphy clan, and sometimes does some less-than-legal errands for his father-in-law, John. He wants more out of his life and wants to “not owe nobody nothing,” but nobody ever leaves Dogtown. One day at the beach, he sees “the goddess who came out of the sea” and who “has a voice like sex.” Terri's brother Liam Murphy accidentally-on-purpose touches the woman’s breast, which sets off a chain reaction of events in which bullets fly and f-bombs and their ilk swarm like cicadas on nearly every page. You know, you just don’t touch a made guy’s woman, and the goddess is going out with Paulie Moretti. The Providence press gleefully reports the other-side-of-the-tracks bloodletting among men who supplement their wages with hijacking trucks and boosting heroin. So Danny wants out with his wife and son, but—well, it’s complicated. Chances are they’ll have to live and die in Dogtown. And, oh yeah, Danny loathes his rich mother, who tries so hard to make amends for abandoning him. The characters are as vividly described as some of them are vile: One guy “never met a job he couldn’t lose.” John Murphy is “the king of an empire that died a long time ago. The light of a long-dead star.” At the ocean, Danny observes that the “whitecaps look like the beards of sad old men.” A Murphy declares, “That Ryan blood….It’s cursed.” But the Murphy blood isn’t exactly touched by angels either. And then there are the Morettis, all of them trapped in a cycle of crime and violence, just looking for an excuse to go to war. One difference between Danny and some of the others is he’s never killed anybody. Yet. Meanwhile, a planned heist might just solve some financial problems for whoever survives all the betrayals.

Plenty of pain for the characters, plenty of thrills for the reader.

Pub Date: April 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-285119-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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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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HORROR MOVIE

A fever dream about despair and regret that will stay with you long after the credits have rolled.

When an unreleased cult movie is rebooted, the surviving member of the original film’s crew grapples with psychic whiplash.

Even though it’s not steeped in horror lore like the bangers being cranked out by Stephen Graham Jones or Grady Hendrix, this captivating take is tailor-made for fans of Stephen King and Jordan Peele alike. A cautionary tale with elements of indie movie darlings The Blair Witch Project, Blue Velvet, and River’s Edge, this chronicle of hometown kids trying to make a cheap slasher flick is shockingly memorable and deeply disturbing. Our unnamed narrator is the last survivor of the eponymous movie, filmed in the summer of 1993. Their Horror Movie concerns teens who torture one of their own—the narrator’s role is that of the Thin Kid, akin to the Slender Man of urban legend—and suffer the consequences. In the mix are the film’s obsessive director, Valentina; a handful of cast and crew; and the film’s ethereal screenwriter, Cleo, whose presence is most fully felt within the pages of her unusually personal screenplay. After a bewildering tragedy, the film was never released. Decades later, Valentina uploads a few scenes, some stills, and the screenplay to the internet, inspiring the modern-day reinvention. With his crewmates long dead by mostly natural causes, the narrator reluctantly agrees to capitalize on his infamy, eventually agreeing to participate in a hot horror reboot. Revolving between the original production and the big-budget reimagining, Tremblay deftly sidesteps genre tropes and easy laughs for a truly disturbing experience inside some very troubled heads. “Don’t get me wrong, it’s going to be a great movie,” cautions our Thin Kid. “You’re all going to see it. Most of you are really going to like it.…Will the movie be something you take with you, that stays with you, burrows into and lives in a corner inside you? That, I don’t know.”

A fever dream about despair and regret that will stay with you long after the credits have rolled.

Pub Date: June 11, 2024

ISBN: 9780063070011

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2024

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