Shamus winner Emerson (The Smoke Room, 2007, etc.) gets a lot right here: strong characters, gripping action scenes. But the...

PRIMAL THREAT

A crime-fiction writer ventures into James Dickey territory, but doesn’t quite deliver.

When fireman Zak Polanski helps free Nadine Newcastle from her wrecked Lexus SUV, little does he know what else he’s letting loose. Not that prior knowledge would have mattered. Had those pent-up forces been twice as fractious, twice as malevolent, it wouldn’t have changed the fact that Nadine was so very pretty, so desperately scared, and that Zak found himself drawn to her beyond his power to resist. There are, true enough, counterbalancing facts that for Zak become immediately complicating and life-altering. For starters, Nadine is rich, and blue-collar Zak despises rich people. More importantly, she has an obsessively vengeful ex-boyfriend, and thereby hangs the bulk of this tale, a tale of mindless savagery played out in western Washington’s Cascade Mountains. By avocation, Zak is a passionate racer of mountain bikes. In company with four cyclist friends, he’s been planning a three day expedition that will cover 200 miles over extremely rugged, little-traveled terrain, a trek “similar to running three or four marathons back-to-back.” Eagerly, they embark—until William Potter III (Scooter), and his band of overprivileged brothers, turn up to rewrite the scenario drastically. For what the jealous, almost certainly sociopathic Scooter has in mind is all-out war, us against them, the deserving-rich against the loser-lesser classes, and if in the process a corpse or two happens to litter the landscape, what else is an enemy for? Suddenly, to Zak, the idea of civilization begins to seem almost frivolous as he struggles to survive the “primal threat” embodied by Scooter.

Shamus winner Emerson (The Smoke Room, 2007, etc.) gets a lot right here: strong characters, gripping action scenes. But the book is just too long and repetitious, and the suspense level suffers accordingly.

Pub Date: Jan. 29, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-345-49299-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2007

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 47

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more