This razor-sharp, tech-laden tale proves both convincing and exhilarating.



Cyberharassment against a Hollywood businessman quickly evolves into coercion and physical attacks in this debut techno-thriller.

Someone has apparently targeted Dante Ellis, founder and CEO of a successful advertising company. Soon after he receives a vaguely intimidating text, a deepfake appears online—digitally altered footage showing him engaged in a vile sex act. There’s no shortage of people potentially harboring animosity against Dante: a fired employee, an industry rival, etc. But tracking down the anonymous aggressor isn’t easy even after this harassment turns into overt threats. Dark Messiah, which seems to be a group of hackers, soon takes credit. But Dante isn’t the only cybervictim in Hollywood. A SWAT team storms the home of information technology guy Gary Wexler on the basis of a false report. Aspiring singer Briana Warren learns that an unknown individual has a video of her that she’d like to remain private. Both Gary’s and Briana’s lives ultimately intersect with Dante’s in an elaborate scheme the CEO struggles to decipher. Dark Messiah’s reach is immeasurable, as it manages to hurt Dante professionally as well as physically. The onslaught escalates further when individuals kidnap Dante’s 9-year-old daughter, Abigail, and Dark Messiah gives him a harrowing choice in order to save her. Whitlock’s tale, with its contemporary dangers and tech, is frighteningly realistic. For example, cyberthreats include doxxing people—ruining them by posting their private information online. The author steeps his narrative in a foreboding atmosphere; omnipresent dragonfly drones seemingly spy on individuals, and it is clear Dark Messiah closely monitors its victims. Moreover, the prose seethes with menacing descriptions: A security door’s lock pops “like a gunshot,” and an “early morning sun knifed in under the blinds.” Brief scenes and chapters, along with copious twists, produce a swift pace. While necessary exposition in the final act decelerates the narrative, intrigue remains high all the way to the smashing conclusion.

This razor-sharp, tech-laden tale proves both convincing and exhilarating. (dedication, acknowledgements, author bio)

Pub Date: April 6, 2021


Page Count: 351

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

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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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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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A well-turned, if predictable, installment in the popular series.


With the United States the “closest [it’s] been to war” in a lifetime, intelligence operative Jack Ryan Jr. faces stiff odds in trying to avert disaster with China.

Trouble with China begins brewing (yet again in the Clancy books) with the rendition of a Chinese scientist and the killing of his American brother, a specialist in machine learning. With a sniper attack on the German outpost of The Campus, Ryan’s “off-the-books” agency, and the downing of an American plane over the South China Sea, U.S. efforts to recover a Chinese undersea glider capable of detecting a $3 billion American stealth submarine are in jeopardy. Things look especially grim with the capture of crash survivor John Clark, Ryan’s boss and a close compadre of his father, President Jack Ryan Sr. With Ryan Sr. still shaken by the abduction of his wife a year ago and Ryan Jr. doubtful of his abilities as a team leader, it's up to intelligence director Mary Pat Foley to calm the waters with her expertise and strong will. One possible outcome is a Chinese attack on Taiwan. In Bentley’s third outing in the series, it takes a while to get past cookie cutter stuff: Many pages go by before the reader knows what all the tense language, chase scenes, and international travel are about. But the book's cool, checkerboard efficiency eventually takes hold. And the streaks of vulnerability that run through the Ryans impart a human dimension that most such thrillers lack. Bentley also takes pains to distinguish the novel from fake fiction: “Unlike in the movies, getting struck by a rifle round moving at several thousand feet per second was not insignificant.”

A well-turned, if predictable, installment in the popular series.

Pub Date: May 23, 2023

ISBN: 9780593422786

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2023

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