Sharply drawn characters deliver a mostly jovial ghost story.

THE CAPTAIN'S HOUSE

In this supernatural mystery, a woman’s dream house seems perfect for a bed-and-breakfast—but it comes with a curse and a few ghosts.

Rachel Morgan is ready for a permanent home. She’s been married to Ryan for less than a year, and since then, they’ve lived in four different cities. She finds an old, six-bedroom house in small Harwich Port, Massachusetts, where they can reside and run a B&B. The real-estate listing mentions rumors about the house being cursed and haunted, and Rachel thinks that such a reputation will certainly attract curious guests. She comes to realize, though, that the rumors may be true. There’s unexplainable, loud banging at night, for example, although only Ryan seems to hear it. The more pressing issue is Ryan’s secretiveness, as Rachel knows next to nothing about his job. This puts a strain on their marriage, so she runs the B&B without him. She befriends some intriguing Harwich locals, hires college-student Nikki as her assistant, and, soon, actually meets the house’s several ghostly residents. Thankfully, most of the spirits are amiable, and surprisingly protective. But one ghost, in particular, isn’t very friendly  and may be responsible for the aforementioned curse, which may have caused the deaths of past residents. Rachel’s only hope is to convince this phantom to remove the curse once and for all. Bevans’ (Secrets on Sycamore Street, 2016, etc.) novel is an often lighthearted tale with plenty of melodrama and even some unexpected romance. The ghosts aren’t generally scary, but they do add intrigue to the story—particularly when they help Rachel in unusual ways. The unfriendly ghost, meanwhile, becomes a threat to someone that Rachel cares about. The book really hits its stride in its more realistic moments, as when Nikki encounters a delightfully mysterious guest at the B&B, discovers an unplanned pregnancy, and anticipates an impending storm that promises to be fierce. Several characters have their own subplots, but some storylines have no resolution, such as an alleged rape and the ghosts’ “mission.” Interestingly, however, Rachel acknowledges the lack of resolution regarding one issue, which ultimately leads to a mild but effective open ending.

Sharply drawn characters deliver a mostly jovial ghost story.

Pub Date: March 31, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-72830-614-8

Page Count: 290

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: July 12, 2019

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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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