Despite occasional stumbles, this thriller successfully shows readers that even a contract killer can be an everyday kind of...



In Andriese’s debut thriller, a former Army Ranger becomes an assassin for the CIA.

Brian Stack is ready to leave the military behind when he’s approached by Col. Walter Burke, who believes that Brian’s weapons training and marksmanship make him perfectly suited to work as a contract agent for the government. Brian impresses the agency during his initial training by completing a psychological test that no other trainee has ever finished. After joining up, he manages to balance his well-paying contracts with his personal life, which eventually includes a romance with Burke’s receptionist, Daisy. Not every contract, however, goes without a hitch, and Brian is not immune to serious injury. After he’s the victim of what seems to be an orchestrated attack, he believes his secret may have been compromised. The novel is told from Brian’s detailed-oriented perspective, and his need to meticulously explain every aspect of his missions—hotels, meals, how he passes time on flights—makes sense, given his delicate work. It’s understandable, and a little amusing, that this carries over to his personal life; Brian vividly describes his first date with Daisy, and even how he comes to own (and love) his pet kitten, Sarge. Andriese grounds the story by stressing Brian’s vulnerability; for example, he’s injured so extensively during one job that he requires surgery, leading him to consider retirement before the age of 30. The book’s global scope, with settings from Hong Kong to Somalia, is diverting, but it does result in some stereotyping. Brian’s friends Arthur and Nicky—an Australian and a Brit respectively—speak in phonetically rendered dialogue and are prone to saying “mate” or “gov”; at one point, Brian’s “Englishmen’s disguise” consists of an obviously Sherlock Holmes–inspired plaid cap and tweed coat. Brian’s relationship with Daisy also doesn’t move much beyond the superficial, although he does like to hear her Southern drawl. However, the fact that she’s always waiting for him back in the States gives him great incentive to make it home alive.

Despite occasional stumbles, this thriller successfully shows readers that even a contract killer can be an everyday kind of guy.

Pub Date: March 22, 2014

ISBN: 978-1493557165

Page Count: 258

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2014

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


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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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.


Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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