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THE DIRT BIKE DETECTIVE

THE BEAST IN THE SHADOWS

This crafty, energetic sequel builds beautifully on the previous installment.

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An imaginative group of kids tackle interconnected mysteries, in this upper-middle–grade sequel.

Twelve-year-old Oliver Teller has a large birthmark on his face, making him unique and eager for acceptance. He lives in Raven Ridge, Colorado, with his overworked mom and younger brother, Adam. His motley circle of friends—Gio, Eduard, and Chase—love local mysteries involving possible supernatural elements. Oliver’s crush, the lovely and skeptical Jax, tries to keep the boys’ imaginations grounded while investigating cases around town. Also in Oliver’s orbit is Ana Rahela Balenovic, Raven Ridge Academy’s biggest know-it-all. When Oliver’s private journal goes missing from his backpack, an adventure begins that will require each teen’s special skill. Chase’s 16-year-old sister, Aspyn, soon hires them to solve the mystery of a pizza that vanished from the car of her boyfriend, who delivers for Valencia’s Pizza Shop. Additionally, two hikers in Canyon Creek find a severely injured man attacked by something bestial. While these happenings swirl in Oliver’s mind, he harbors feelings for Jax, whom he wants to impress. As ringleader Chase goads everyone into hunting werewolves and ghosts, Oliver is torn between fitting in and growing up. He also shoulders the trickle-down stress of seeing his mother struggle with two jobs, one of them in a bar run by a man who harasses her. When Chase’s cleverness and Jax’s passion for research help the gang advance their cases, true danger appears. Chase also contends with the strange appearances of Odyssey and the Shadow, opposing secret agents pointing toward a wider, weirder conspiracy.

Hoover’s second installment once again merges mystery and heartfelt drama, this time spotlighting the former. The large, diverse cast and small-town environment allow for plot threads to take fabulously odd paths before connecting. Well-honed characters shine even as they help reacquaint readers with prior events; e.g., “I’m Ana Rahela Balenovic! I’m part of the newspaper. I won the national essay contest, and I helped save the President of the United States!” Most of the narrative unfolds via Oliver’s first-person perspective, except for several elaborate fantasy sequences. Oliver’s viewpoint is lush with adolescent vibrancy, which assumes a more colorful world than exists. For example, when Chase explains to the sheriff that “lycanthrope” means werewolf, Oliver notes that his friend is “careful not to show any surprise at the sheriff’s ignorance about such a dangerous creature.” Jax’s concern for the environment against encroaching human populations is one of many excellent themes supporting Hoover’s detailed panorama. Some of the heaviest emotional moments are subdued, like when Adam wants to be included in his brother’s exciting life, but Oliver says, “Why don’t you just entertain yourself for a while?” Oliver is also casually cruel to Ana, who clearly adores him (see The Dirt Bike Detective, 2016). Astute readers will see that he’s passing on the rejection he’s dealt with because of his birthmark, making Oliver’s angst a remarkable, if understated, aspect of the novel. By the end, Raven Ridge keeps numerous secrets, including Chase’s belief that something sinister is happening at the academy.

This crafty, energetic sequel builds beautifully on the previous installment.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Manuscript

Review Posted Online: July 6, 2022

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THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 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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