While the fun is, for the most part, worth the outlandish coincidences, exceedingly stupid adversaries and/or superhuman...

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GIDEON'S SWORD

A shadowy quasi-governmental organization hires a highly resourceful art thief-turned-physicist to obtain plans for a mysterious weapon in the first book in Preston and Child’s (Fever Dream, 2010, etc.) new series.

Gideon Crew was a successful art thief until his mother, on her death bed, informed him that his father had not been the failure he’d always assumed he was, but was in fact set up to take the blame for the mistakes of his superiors. She urges him to seek revenge. After years of preparation—including getting a job as a physicist at Los Alamos—he enacts his revenge and prepares to devote his newfound free time to fly-fishing. His plans are interrupted by the appearance of a mysterious man in his favorite fishing spot, who offers him a large sum of money to take on a dangerous mission. It seems a secretive organization that does work for the Department of Homeland Security took notice of the work to avenge his father and wants to enlist him to procure the plans to a mysterious weapon being brought to New York by a possible defector from China. As part of his recruitment “pitch,” Crew is informed that he suffers from an incurable disease and has a short time to live. Faced with a dwindling set of options, Crew takes the mission and spends the next several days desperately trying to get his hands on the plans without falling into the clutches of Nodding Crane, a deadly operative sent by the Chinese to retrieve the plans—and kill anyone who gets too close to them. No reader expects Preston and Child to let too much realism get in the way of a good story—nor should they—but there are limits, and the authors sometimes exceed them.

While the fun is, for the most part, worth the outlandish coincidences, exceedingly stupid adversaries and/or superhuman feats, it is not worth it by a large margin. Still, Crew is a great character, and this series holds promise.

Pub Date: Feb. 22, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-446-56432-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2010

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

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

THEN SHE WAS GONE

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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